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Full text of "Heresies Magazine Issue #11: Making Room - Women and Architecture (Volume 3, Number 3)"

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MAKING ROOM: Women and Architecture 

HERESIES 11 Vol. 3, No. 3 
























Architecture and Social Change 

Women's Environmental Rights: A Manifesto 

Street Museum 

"Where Do You Live?" Women in the Landscape of Poverty 

Seven Hypotheses on Male and Female Principles in Architecture 

Women House Themselves 

Women's Design Collective 

Sweat Equity and the Women of St. Columba's 

Women's Development Corporation 

Architects' Community Design Center: A Conversation 

with Toni Harris 
Resource List 

Carpet Housing 

The Woman's Commonwealth: A Nineteenth-Century Experiment 


Domestic Interiors in Northern New Mexico 

Women on the Inside: Divisions of Space in Imperial China 


Housing Histories: A Way of Understanding the Social and 

Personal Meaning of the Domestic Environment 
Kitchen Dramas 
Cubes in the Sahara 
A Place of Birth: The Changing Structure of Obstetrical Care 

Space As Matrix 

The Passing of the Home in Great American Cities 

The Feminist Paradise Palace 

Kitchen Culture /Kitchen Dialectic 

Electricity Is Her Servant 

Environment As Memory: An Interview with Donna Dennis and 
Maureen Connor 

The Bessie Smith Memorial Dance Hall located somewhere 

in Harlem 
Eileen Gray 

From Electicism to Doubt: An Interview with Eileen Gray by 

Jean Badovici 
Lilly Reich 
The Sharon Building: The Transformation of Women's 

Recreational Needs in the Late Nineteenth-Century City 
Vignettes in Architectural Education: A Letter from 

the Ivory Tower 

The City Within the Landscape 

Beatrix Farrand at Dumbarton Oaks 

Building the Women's Club in Nineteenth-Century America 

Women's Networks: Julia Morgan and Her Clients 

Editorial Collective 
Nunzia Rondanini 
Leslie Kanes Weisman 
Sharon Sutton 
Pat Therese Francis 
Margrit Kennedy 
Gerda R. Wekerle 
Susan Francis 
Christine Lindquist 
Katrin Adam 
Susan E. Aitcheson 
Joan Forrester Sprague 
Gail Price 

Helen Heifer 
Leslie Kanes Weisman 
Ruth Rutholtz 
Diana Ming Sung 
Gwendolyn Wright 
Phyllis Birkby 
Jean E. Hess 
Nancy Lee Pollock 
Billie Tsien 
Anna Rubbo 

Nan Bauer Maglin 
Gail Price 
Jan Bishop 
Barbara Marks 
Susana Torre 
Charlotte Perkins Gilman 
Dolores Hayden 
Joan Greenbaum 
Carol Barkin 
Jane McGroarty 
Deborah F. Nevins 
Donna Robertson 

Deborah F. Nevins 
translation by 
Deborah F. Nevins 
Deborah Dietsch 
Galen Cranz 

Ellen K. Morris 

Lorna McNeur 
Diana Balmori 
Cynthia Rock 
Sara Holmes Boutelle 

he idea of a HERESIES issue examining the relationships between women and Editorial Collective 

architecture was an outgrowth of projects and research which we had been en- Barbara Marks 

gaged in collectively since 1976. Initially the proposal for this issue met with some lane C. McGrourt y 
skepticism both from the HERESIES Collective and other feminists. The feminist 

Deborah Nevins 

analysis of built space has come later than comparable critical evaluations of, for example, Cud Price 
employment, politics, health, and sex roles. This is no doubt related to the common belief Cynthia Rock 
that architecture is something only the wealthy can afford or that it is a neutral back- Susana Iorre 

Leslie Kaues Weisman 

Harmony Hammond 
Sac Heincmann 
lames rvlcCroarty 
Nanzia Rondanim 

Elizabeth Clark 
Leslie Coh.en 
Lyn Ccrnert 
Carole Gregory 

ground which doesn't affect people's lives. 

The notion of the Other, as understood by Simone de Beauvoir when she wrote about 
women as "defined and differentiated with reference to man," as "the incidental, the in- Special thanks to: 

essential," also applies to architecture. The history and practice of architecture have ig- 
nored, for all their lip service to humanism, the lives, needs, aspirations, work, and 
creativity of women. In this issue we refer to and expand on the humanist tradition of 
architecture through viewpoints, themes, and strategies that demonstrate how the connec- 
tions between women's lives and their environment are to a large extent a consequence of VVe a]so £ -, c k now i ec ig e the help of: 
political and economic actions, both in a repressive and a liberating sense. Without these Katrin Adam 
concerns architecture, as a profession and as an art, will utterly fail to fulfill its role in /,„, Bishop 
creating appropriate settings for all human life. The range of articles and projects selected Anne Blanton 
for this issue are intended to open a debate and to create links between feminism and archi- Cynthia Can 
tecture, both in theory and in practice. 

Women taking charge of their own spatial destiny is a theme of several articles and 
projects. Wekerle, Adam/Aitcheson/Sprague, Lindquist, S. Francis, Weisman, Harris, 

Marks/Bishop, and Sutton all describe a present-day self-help and community devel- s'^mi Hamoeitch 
opment movement in which women are working to define and fulfill their special needs, Robin Hurst 

long ignored by developers, planners, and designers. Similarly, articles by Wright, Alessandta Latour 

Gilman, Hayden, and Rock show that in the past women have on occasion attempted to Maureen O'Brien 

create alternative spaces for themselves, outside the limited sphere of the single-family Cina Speirs 

home Lauretta Vineiarelli 

The poioerlessness women feel in not being able to control their own environments as Mori/ > oang 

well as their frustration at being relegated to the domestic sphere come out in articles by . . m,,,.„„ 7;, ,,.„„.. 

rr T-. , n 1 • 1 /-• 1 1 this issue leas t\/ncset in/ iwyina /^immei - 

Pollock and P. Francis. In different ways Rubbo, Barkm, and Cranz document how worn- ^ -.^ f/ ^ Contents 5Ct ~ ln/ ]osep h,„e 

en frequently have not been asked to participate in spatial decision-making processes Coupa and the Headlines by Scarlett Letters. 

directly affecting their lives. All these authors underscore the difficulties women face in /( u , (|s pr , ntet i ;, y Capital City Press, Mont- 

changing both their roles and their environments. The interior of the house has been the pclier. Vermont. 

only area over which women have had any spatial control. An appreciation of women's 
creative responses to domestic confines and the identification of an ongoing woman's cul- 
ture in the home are themes taken up by Hess, Maglin, and Greenbaum. 

Articles by Nevins, Balmori, Dietsch, and Boutelle focus on the work of women de- 
signers in the past and lead us to speculate about a female approach to design and career. 
Julia Morgan's architectural practice owed much to a network of women clients and wom- 
en's organizations and can be seen as a consequence of the spirit of cooperation and 
enthusiasm among women which flourished during the Suffrage era. The work of Eileen 
Gray and Lilly Reich, European designers of the early modern movement, suggests a con- 
cern for human comfort and multiplicity of use which goes beyond the formal character- 
istics of the prevailing International Style. 

Whether women design differently from their male counterparts seems to be a predict- 
able question about women and architecture. While this HERESIES issue does not address 
this question extensively, certain articles and projects suggest that women do bring differ- 
ent attitudes to the design process (Rondanini, Kennedy, Birkby, Price, Connor/Dennis, 
Rutholtz/Sung, Tsien, McNeur, Morris, Torre). 

Even the most superficial examination of how the built environment is organized — how 
many and what kinds of services are available in what neighborhoods, who owns and who 
rents, who has spacious or cramped living and working quarters and where— reveals that 
the size, character, location, and quality of space accorded to an individual or class reflect 
the values of a society. Change in spatial allocation is therefore inherent to change in 
power distribution. We believe that what is broadly termed "architecture" indeed has a 
particular significance for women. As architects, designers, educators, critics, and femi- 
nists, we assert that a political interest in the design and planning of dwellings, communi- 
ties, public spaces, and cities should be a concern of all feminists. 

~7a^ c^h%^5 


Wednesday. May 6 at 8 p.m., A.I.R. Gallery, 

97 VYooster Street, New York City. 


Architecture and Social Change 

Nunzia Rondanini 

As a movement uniting all women 
in a struggle against exploitation 
and discrimination, feminism in- 
cludes the goals of attaining our 
own identity and of achieving a share of 
power. Yet, among ourselves, we may 
disagree on the meaning of both identity 
and power. I, for instance, do not see fem- 
inism as independent of class struggle, but 
rather as a stream that eventually flows 
into the larger movement toward a new 
social organization. This explains why, in 
dealing with the relationships between 
architecture and social change, I cannot 
identify an exclusively feminist dimension 
of the problem. 

Architecture, like feminism, is also a 
much debated term. The role of the archi- 
tect today is particularly uncertain and 
ambiguous. A coherent and solid founda- 
tion to contemporary practice necessi- 
tates a theoretical framework if questions 
raised by this practice are to be answered 
coherently. This rational foundation must 
be sought in history, in the works that 
were built or only planned, as they appear 
in their ultimate expression: form. His- 
tory—whether man's or woman's— has 
never experienced interruptions. Histori- 
cal events— and architecture— may change 
or develop, but they always originate in 
their precedents. Architecture is as old as 
people themselves. Can we now "invent" 
it, starting from fanciful images of tomor- 
row's world or from what we think a lib- 
erated feminine sensibility should be? We 
will not do anything different unless we 
do something better. And this implies a 
knowledge of what we will improve upon. 
It is only through history that we can learn 
about architecture. The fact that history 
has been written and built mostly by men 
is a reality we cannot wipe out in a single 

The industrial and bourgeois revolu- 
tions in the 19th century brought to an 
end the dialogue between the prince and 
the architect that had traditionally been 
the generator of architecture. The unity of 
architectural theory and practice was thus 
dissolved, opening the way to diverse, 
conflicting interpretations. 

Three such interpretations in particu- 
lar are currently trying to assert their 
theoretical supremacy in competition with 
one another: functionalism, according to 
which the form of any architectural work 

is the direct offspring of its function, i.e., 
the material requirements that it is meant 
to fulfill; the heteronomous theories, 
which derive form from the analyses and 
conclusions of social and behavioral sci- 
ences; and formalism, which maintains 
that architectural form comes into being 
through a unique and independent pro- 


In every city there are certain build- 
ings, streets, and squares that last beyond 
their time and stand out among other 
urban elements. We call them monuments. 
If form really derives unequivocally from 
function, as functionalists claim, and 
given that function relates to the needs of 
a specific age and society, monuments 
should have disappeared along with the 
generation that created them. Instead, 
they have survived, sometimes by serving 
a purpose different from that originally 
intended. Indeed, one of their most inter- 
esting characteristics is precisely that they 
have outlived the immediate needs for 
which they were constructed. Yet monu- 
ments continue to impose their presence 
on the city and influence its development. 
The city acquires its unique form through 
a continuous interaction between monu- 
ments, the plan, and the smaller urban 
fabric. Such form is of great importance 
because it conveys the architectural mes- 
sage of the city. 

Surrounded by a wild tropical land- 
scape, the Mayan ruins are an example of 
what form by itself can mean. Although 
little is known about Mayan civilization 
and the practical use of these spaces, they 
nevertheless provoke an overwhelming 
aesthetic experience. Their function has 
been forgotten, but their form is still alive 
and one can learn from it. 

Together with the other arts, architec- 
ture is a cultural manifestation of society. 
Functionalism ignores this reality. While 
function may play a role in defining archi- 
tectural form, the relationship between 
function and form is not deterministic. 

Heteronomous Theories 

The heteronomous theories derive ar- 
chitectural form from the analyses and 
conclusions of sciences such as anthro- 
pology, sociology, and economics. While 
these disciplines unquestionably contri- 

bute to an understanding of architecture, 
especially of the city, they should not in- 
terfere with its actual making. It is not 
possible to travel backwards and deduce a 
more "human" or "just" architecture from 
the findings of social sciences. There is no 
need for such sciences to mediate between 
architecture and reality because architec- 
ture is already a direct expression of soci- 
ety. The central and the longitudinal 
church plans, for example, show two dif- 
ferent ways in which society envisioned 
the relationships between people, priest, 
and God; these views are expressed in the 
very configuration of the plans. 

Social sciences are not involved with 
the process of creating form; they only 
concern themselves with it a posteriori. 
Those who wish to influence social be- 
havior directly through architecture imply 
that one can establish a static relationship 
between some hypothetically desirable 
way of life and a corresponding architec- 
tural form. As in functionalism, form is 
subordinated to specific external require- 
ments which supposedly generate it. Since 
these change continuously, it is bound to 
an early obsolescence. Experience has 
shown that an architectural form, such as 
a square, which at a given time fostered 
social interaction, may easily fail to do so 
when revived for this purpose. Similarly, 
the architectural proposals of Utopian so- 
cialism or of German rationalism between 
the wars were products of careful social 
studies. However, once executed, they 
often proved ineffectual as instruments of 
social advancement and even became 
tools of oppression — an example being 
the concept of existenz minimum as it was 
applied to workers' housing. 


Formalism maintains that the real field 
of expression of architecture is form, 
which finds its origin and definition 
through its own particular process, as the 
fulfillment of independent cultural 
choices. In discussing this question, 
Gybrgy Lukacs refers to the town wall, 
among the very first examples of architec- 
ture. While the primary function of the 
town wall was to keep the enemy out, the 
feeling of security it gave to town dwellers 
soon ceased to be an accidental conse- 
quence and became a necessary com- 
ponent of the structure. At a certain stage, 

1981 Nunzia Roiuianini 

the town dwellers' perception of the wall 
was no longer connected to its objective 
capacity to repel assailants, but rather 
was directly linked to its height, width, 
and solidity, that is, to its form. The wall 
was more than a manifestation of physical 
needs. It had .become an expression of self- 
awareness, an artistic creation. 1 

Through its aesthetic dimension archi- 
tecture goes beyond the functional aspects 
that it has in common with other human 
sciences and becomes truly autonomous. 
Form is at once the limit and liberation of 
architecture. Through form architecture 
can rise above the immediate conditions 
that produce it and can express values 
which survive for the future: the Parthe- 
non or the Florentine Renaissance palace 
are as meaningful today as when they 
were first conceived. 

In the final analysis the autonomy of 
architecture poses a value choice for the 
architect. The issue is not whether archi- 
tecture is autonomous, but rather whether 
it ought to be so, whether it is an art and a 
necessary element for the complete satis- 
faction of our needs, and whether it 
should continue to exist as a discipline 
which "gives form" to the aspirations and 
feelings of humanity. 

Through form, architecture has been a 
witness of human history. Architectural 
testimonies, placed next to each other in 
time (history) and space (the built environ- 
ment), can be described and compared, 
studied and evaluated. The autonomy of 
architecture also consists of the possibility 
of identifying "from within" the general 
principles and techniques that apply to it. 

In accepting architecture as an autono- 
mous discipline, one frees it from the en- 
slavement of other disciplines and returns 
it to its unique and universal role. Al- 
though essential, this clarification is only 
a starting point. I would now like to raise 
a complementary issue: that of the social 
impact of architecture, for by shaping the 
space in which one moves and has experi- 
ences, architecture is the very landscape 
of human life. Unlike other forms of art, 
architecture is not just aimed at an audi- 
ence; it is also inhabited and used by peo- 
ple. It is thus potentially a social art of the 
highest order. 

My defense of an autonomous archi- 
tecture may seem to exclude any direct 
participation of architecture in social life. 
Yet I believe that architecture should 
neither be indifferent to nor simply de- 
pendent on social events. Through its own 
particular way of expressing values, archi- 
tecture can stimulate and influence social 
life without presuming that, in and of it- 
self, it will promote social development. 
The social role of an autonomous archi- 
tecture must be felt by each architect. This 
is what Ernesto Rogers had in mind when 

he exhorted his students at the Milan 
Polytechnic Institute: "Do not ever forget 
that you are first of all persons, then citi- 
zens, and finally architects." First, per- 
sons: this emphasizes the primary impor- 
tance of personality and its subtle mesh of 
character, feelings, and experiences; the 
history of one's soul. Second, citizens: this 
condition cannot be renounced; what is at 
issue is social awareness. As citizens, we 
form an opinion about our environment 
and pursue a certain ideal; in other words, 
we take a political stand. Thus every ac- 
tion acquires an ideological counterpart, 
becoming at the same time an assessment 
of present reality and a proposal for the 
future. At no time can scientific or artistic 
expressions be "objective" or indifferent 
because the individuals who bring them to 
life are social and political beings. Finally, 
architects: this role demands a confronta- 
tion with the specific principles and tech- 
niques of the discipline, as well as with its 
almost unlimited historical references. It is 
in the application of principles and in the 
choice of references that both personality 
and ideology are revealed. Thus, person- 
ality and ideology represent the major 
variables of an architect's practice; they 
precede the actual design of the work. 

While we— as women— struggle to 
liberate our own creativity, our work un- 
avoidably expresses a constrained iden- 
tity, product of our oppression. This con- 
dition becomes a "personal" component 
of our art, but one that is actually collec- 
tive. I do not think that it is possible to 
derive an exclusively female architectural 
style from autobiographical references; 
yet certain similarities might be observed 
in projects designed by women. These 
similarities, however, do not mean that 
women have a different architectural sen- 
sibility but that we have a common his- 
tory of oppression. As with other cultural 
expressions such as law and religion, the 
uses to which architecture is usually put 
reflect and preserve the capitalist and 
patriarchal orientations of our society. 
We must therefore seek an alternative to 
those conditions which bear a major 
responsibility for the exploitation and 
alienation of all people. Without avoiding 
the issue of a necessary commitment to 
political struggle, I— as a socialist-feminist 
architect — propose the inclusion of these 
alternatives in the professional agenda of 
women architects. In order to do this real- 
istically, that is, without yielding to the 
inconsequential seduction of sociopolitical 
Utopias, one must examine the limits of 
architecture in relation to the broader 

If we accept the assumption that eco- 
nomic relations are the most dominant 
aspect of society, it follows that architec- 
ture — although autonomous within its 
own disciplinary realm — is also depen- 

dent on them. What is important here is 
to determine the precise extent of this 
dependency. Some believe that art and 
therefore architecture are ultimately 
subordinate to class and economic condi- 
tions. Thus, art cannot contribute directly 
to class struggle — its only progressive role 
is defined as that of unmasking and re- 
vealing the true nature of negative social 
values such as competition, profit, and 
sexual and racial discrimination. Disci- 
plinary research is seen as irrelevant by 
those who regard change in the economic 
basis of society as the only means for 
revitalizing both architecture and society. 
This position fails to realize that the 
relationship between the economic struc- 
ture of society and its cultural superstruc- 
ture is not completely subordinate but 
that there is a measure of interaction. 
Engels wrote: 

Political, juridical, philosophical, reli- 
gious, literary, artistic, etc. development 
is based on economic development. But all 
these react upon one another and also 
upon the economic base. It is not that the 
economic position is the cause and alone 
active, while everything else has only a 
passive effect. There is, rather, interaction 
on the basis of economic necessity, which 
ultimately always asserts itself. 2 

According to this position, it is pos- 
sible to envision social changes that are 
the result not only of those actions which 
directly affect the mode of production but 
of alternative ideas and values developed 
in the cultural realm. Historical change is 
not just accompanied but often prefigured 
by innovative cultural trends which antici- 
pate and contribute to shaping social 

The real expectations that architecture 
is supposed to meet are the same for every- 
body: comfort, security, and a place of 
self-identification. While the rich may 
indeed satisfy these needs, the poor can- 
not. Similarly, women can often only sat- 
isfy certain imposed needs that are not 
necessarily their own. Most architectural 
expressions — from the Egyptian pyramid 
to the neo-classical villa — reflect and in- 
deed presuppose the existing power struc- 
ture. Cultivating the arts has traditionally 
been a prerogative of the ruling class, 
which can develop its intellectual talents 
through its exemption from manual and 
reproductive labor. A cross-section of any 
contemporary city will show that the 
architectural environment of the wealthy 
is infinitely superior to that of the work- 
ing class. 

Yet the decay and segregation of large 
areas of the city are not the responsibility 
of architecture but of its political misuse. 3 
There is indeed a big difference between 
the disciplinary dimension of architecture 
and its actual use. Architects do not have 


much control over the latter. Only those 
in power can exercise it, often against the 
intended purpose of the planners. The 
only alternative to capitalist, racist, and 
sexist use of architecture would be one 
and the same social use by and for all 
people without any discrimination what- 
soever. Although the realization of this 
goal will require a radical economic and 
political change, we must keep it in mind 
when designing. 

It is by concentrating on the possibility 
of development within the discipline that 
architecture may contribute to social 
progress. Through a knowledge of the 
elements and types that have recurred his- 
torically in architecture, it is possible to 
identify those that have been, at any given 
time, most appropriate and responsive to 
basic human needs. They are in a sense 
common denominators which go beyond 
historical and technical circumstances. By 
redefining these types in the context of 
present conditions, each of our solutions 
can build on previous ones and become a 
source for the future, suggesting new ways 
for building and living. 

It is therefore precisely in its auton- 
omous dimension— the only one that ar- 
chitects can really master— that a project 
can break away from the dominant ideas. 
Progressiveness in architecture depends 
on the discipline's ability to develop with- 
in itself. Here progressiveness is not neces- 
sarily the outcome of a political determi- 
nation, but it does presuppose a clear 
understanding of reality and thus a precise 
identification of the specific boundaries of 
architecture, its relationship to historical 
continuity and to contemporary prob- 
lems. In 1934, while working in the USSR, 
where he had been called to contribute to 
the definition of a "Soviet" architecture, 
Andre Lurcat wrote: 

A modern architect must find in every 
epoch, in every great architectural work, 
be it Greek or Chinese, Roman or Aztec, 
the general laws of architecture. These 
laws are rightly the structure and the very 
essence of our art, the only tradition that 
we can know and express authentically, 
while relating to our times of socialist 

I believe this is true also with regard to the 
"female" characteristics of architecture. 
One cannot preconceive a feminist archi- 
tecture from the ideal of an egalitarian 
society. For architecture exists only as the 
expression of an actually established so- 
cial order, and we should not assume that 
our imagination is free until our condition 
is also free. Even when the struggle to 
achieve true equality is over — where will 
we begin if not from the historical heritage 
of architecture? 

Yet by concentrating exclusively on 
the autonomy of architecture or on its 

social role, one can easily lose sight of 
reality. Architects should not use autono- 
my as an excuse for not acknowledging 
the oppressive conditions of the social 
environment in their work. To restrict the 
meaning of formalism to art for art's sake 
is not only reactionary; it can also be 
a purposeless quest for perfection or ori- 
ginality which degrades form into a mere 
instrumentality. But those who would 
wish to see architecture stand in the fore- 
front of social struggles would miss alto- 
gether the subtle and indirect— indeed 
subversive— influence that architecture 
can have on society. 

I have given paramount importance to 
the study of history in outlining the posi- 
tive relationships between architecture's 
autonomy and a socially responsible and 
progressive practice. In closing I want to 
emphasize even more that this study 
should be made collectively. For only 
through a coordinated, patient sum of 
ideas and notions, through a modest and 
constant verification and comparison, can 
we acquire that deeper, responsive knowl- 
edge of our art and a progressive release 
of individual creativity. This collective ef- 
fort is very difficult indeed within the 
structure of capitalist and patriarchal or- 
ganizations, where any values, from 
human dignity to the meaning of architec- 
ture are eventually lost. We should not ac- 
cept individualism and its misery, competi- 
tion and its violence, elitism and its deeply 
conservative nature, because while we 
may get a few women closer to the summit 
of power, we may achieve no difference in 
the substance and quality of life. From 
our experience of exclusion from the cen- 
ters of culture and power, we should have 
learned about their unjust and alienating 
structure. We should struggle not so much 
to be accepted by them but to change 

1. In the words of Lewis Mumford: "The 
city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run 
of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a 
conscious work of art. . . . Mind takes 
form in the city; and in turn, urban forms 
condition mind. For space, no less than 
time, is artfully reorganized in cities: in 
boundary lines and silhouettes, in the fix- 
ing of horizontal planes and vertical 
peaks, in utilizing or denying the natural 
site, the city records the attitude of a cul- 
ture and an epoch to the fundamental 
facts of its existence. The dome and the 
spire, the open avenue and the closed 
court, tell the story, not merely of differ- 
ent physical accommodations, but of es- 
sential different conceptions of man's des- 
tiny " (Culture of Cities [New York: Har- 
court, Brace, 1938], p. 5). 

2. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Corres- 
pondence 1846-1895, ed. and trans. Dona 
Torr (London: Laurence, 1934), p. 515. 

3. The fact that the defeat embodied in the 
slums is social and political becomes evi- 

dent every time that city administrators 
undertake urban renewal or similar re- 
habilitative efforts. While trying to miti- 
gate the housing problem, in practice they 
achieve nothing but the displacement in 
time or space of a phenomenon which will 
appear again. This is because these "tech- 
nical" interventions, as sophisticated as 
they may become with the support of 
parallel initiatives in such areas as welfare 
and education, ignore the fact that the 
question is neither architectural, educa- 
tional, etc., nor the mere sum of all these: 
slums are just one of those diseases that 
paradoxically are necessary to the well- 
being of capitalism. In the same way, the 
confinement of the housewife to her 
kitchen, or her isolation in the suburbs 
where she is prevented from any public or 
cultural life, is the consequence of a sexist 
division of labor and should not be 
blamed on architecture. 
4. Andre Lurcat, "Neoclassicisme or Con- 
structivisme," Architecture in USSR 
(Moscow, July 1934). Quoted by Bruno 
Cassetti, "Andre Lurcat in URSS," Social- 
ismo. Citta, Architettura URSS 1917- 
1937 (Roma: Officina Edizioni, 1976) 
p. 206. 

Nimzia Rondanini is an Italian architect 
presently working in New York City. She re- 
cently spent a year in Nicaragua working for 
the Ministry of Housing and Human Settle- 
ments on the design of a large housing com- 
plex in Managua. 


Women's Environme 

f\ IViUs II I UbIU 

Be it acknowledged 

The man-made environments which surround us reinforce conventional patriarchal defini- 
tions of women's role in society and spatially imprint those sexist messages on our daugh- 
ters and sons. They have conditioned us to an environmental myopia which limits our self- 
concepts . . which limits our visions and choices for ways of living and working, -which 
limits us by not providing the environments we need to support our autonomy or by bar- 
ring our access to them. It is time to open our eyes and see the political nature of this 
environmental oppression! 

Leslie Kanes Weisman 

Photo by Leslie- Kanes Weisman 

Architect Louis Sullivan, often referred to as 
the "Father of the Skyscraper," described a 
building by his colleague Henry Hobson 
Richardson in this way: 

Here is a man for you to look at, a virile 
force, an entire male. It stands in physical 
fact, a monument to trade, to the organized 
commercial spirit, to the power and progress 
of the age, to the strength and resource of 
individuality and force of character. There- 
fore I have called it, in a world of barren 
pettiness, a male, for it sings the song of pro- 
creant power, as others have squealed of 
miscegenation | Kindergarten Chats, 1901]. 

Architecture as icon 

The built environment is a cultural artifact. It is shaped by human intention and interven- 
tion, a living archaeology through which we can extract the priorities and beliefs of the 
decision-makers in our society. Both the process through which we build and the forms 
themselves embody cultural values and imply standards of behavior which affect us all. 
From the corporate towers of the wizards of industry to the Emerald City of the Wizard of 
Oz men have created the built environment in their own self-image. The 20th-century 
urban skyscraper, a pinnacle of patriarchal symbology, is rooted in the masculine mys- 
tique of the big the erect, the forceful-the full balloon of the inflated masculine ego. Sky- 
scrapers in our cities compete for individual recognition and domination while impover- 
ishing human identity and the quality of life. 

The home the place to which women have been intimately connected, is as revered an 
architectural icon as the skyscraper. From early childhood women have been taught to 
assume the role of "homemaker," "housekeeper," and "housewife." The home, long con- 
sidered women's special domain, reinforces sex-role stereotypes and subtly perpetuates 
traditional views of family. From the master bedroom to the head of the table, the man of 
the house/breadwinner" is afforded places of authority, privacy (his own study) and 
leisure (a hobby shop, a special lounge chair). A homemaker has no inviolable space of her 
own She is attached to spaces of service. She is a hostess in the living room, a cook m the 
kitchen, a mother in the children's room, a lover in the bedroom, a chauffeur in the garage. 
The house is a spatial and temporal metaphor for conventional role playing. 
The acceptance and expression of these traditional cultural roles and attitudes still persist 
in the design if not the use, of almost all domestic architecture. In being exclusively identi- 
fied with the home, women are associated with traits of nurturance, cooperation, sub- 
jectivity emotionalism, and fantasy. While "man's world"-the public world of events 
and "meaningful" work-is associated with objectivity, impersonahzation, competition, 
and rationality. 

This fragmentation, this segregation of the public and private spheres according to sex 
roles reinforces an emotionally monolithic stereotype of women and men. It excludes each 
sex from contact and therefore a fuller understanding of each other. It limits each from 
learning a variety of skills and reflects on our concepts of self and other. I believe one of 
the most important responsibilities of architectural feminism is to heal this schizophrenic 
spatial schism-to find a new architectural language in which the "words, grammar, 
and "syntax" synthesize work and play, intellect and feeling, action and compassion. 

Environment as barrier 

Women's lives are profoundly affected by the design and use of public spaces and build- 
ings transportation systems, neighborhoods, and housing. Discriminatory laws, govern- 
mental regulations, cultural attitudes, informal practices, and lack of awareness by profes- 
sionals have created conditions which reflect and reinforce women's second-class status. 
Women are perceived as having very little to do with public space. In public buildings and 
spaces both physical and cultural barriers exclude women with children. A woman with a 
child in a stroller, trying to get through a revolving door or a subway turnstile, is a handi- 
capped" person. Public places rarely provide space where infants can be breast-fed or have 
their diapers changed-the implication being that mothers and children should be at home 
where they belong. 

© 1981 Leslie Kanes Weisman 

Public transportation is used by those with the least access to automobiles, namely the 
young, the aged, minorities, and low-income workers. While men also fall into these cate- 
gories, almost twice as many women as men rely on public transportation to get to their 
jobs in the 12 largest metropolitan areas of the country. The location of industries and 
household work in the suburbs, where there is little, if any, public transportation, severely 
influences job possibilities for both urban low-income female heads of households and 
suburban women without access to cars. 

Women of all socioeconomic classes have been victims of extreme discrimination in the 
rental and purchase of housing and in obtaining mortgage financing and insurance. Sec- 
tion 8, a federally subsidized housing program, disqualifies single persons who are not 
elderly or disabled as well as people of the same or opposite sex who live together but are 
not related by blood or marriage. Standards of this type deny equal access to much-needed 
low-cost housing for the burgeoning numbers of widows and displaced homemakers, 
many of whom are likely to have limited or low incomes. It also blatantly discriminates 
according to sexual preference and marital status. Yet in the past 12 years, households of 
"primary individuals" (those who live with persons unrelated to them) have grown four 
times as fast as households of nuclear families. In 1973, 76% of women over the age of 65 
who were heads of households lived alone. The increased longevity of women, combined 
with undeniable changes in family structure, requires the availability of a wide range of 
housing types, locations, and prices which respect the diversity of the aging population 
and acknowledge varying levels of dependence. 

A meaningful environment is necessary and essential to a meaningful existence. Women 
must demand public buildings and spaces, transportation, and housing, which support our 
lifestyles and incomes and respond to the realities of our lives, not the cultural fantasies 
about them. 

On New Year's Eve 1971, 75 women took 
over an abandoned building on Fifth Street 
owned by the City of New York. They issued 
the following statement on January 29: 

Because we want to develop our own culture, 
Because we want to overcome stereotypes, 
Because we refuse to have "equal rights" in 

a corrupt society, 
Because we want to survive, grow, be 

ourselves. . . 

We took over a building to put into action 
with women those things essential to women 
— health care, child care, food conspiracy, 
clothing and book exchange, gimme 
women's shelter, a lesbian rights center, 
interarts center, feminist school, drug 

We know the city does not provide for us. 
Now we know the city will not allow us to 

provide for ourselves. 
For this reason we were busted. 
We were busted because we are women 

acting independently of men, 

independently of the system. . . 
In other words, we are women being 


Space as power 

The appropriation and use of space are political acts. The kinds of spaces we have, don't 
have, or are denied access to can empower us or render us powerless. Spaces can enhance 
or restrict, nurture or impoverish. We must demand the right to architectural settings 
which will support the essential needs of all women. 


The types of spaces demanded by the women involved in the Fifth Street takeover poign- 
antly illustrate those places lacking in our lives. Day-care centers, displaced homemakers' 
facilities, and women's resource centers are vitally necessary if we are to eliminate existing 
and potential barriers to employment for all women. Battered women's shelters are essen- 
tial if we are to provide women and their children with a safe refuge from their abusers and 
a place to rethink their lives, futures, and the welfare of their children. Emergency housing 
is needed for women runaways and victims of rape. Halfway houses ought to exist for 
prostitutes, alcoholics, addicts, and prisoners. Shelters for shopping bag ladies are needed 
as well. We need decentralized and convenient health care facilities for women. We need to 
build safe and available abortion clinics. Midwife-run birth centers are crucial if we are to 
have control over our own bodies and restore our "birth right." These places and spaces 
represent new architectural settings which reflect both radical changes in our society as 
well as glaring evidence of women's oppression and disenfranchisement. 

What can we do about it? 

Women constitute over 50% of the users of our environments, yet we have had a negligible 
influence on the architectural forms our environments express. Where legislation and 
funding connected with new spaces for women do exist, it is primarily the result of activism 
by women, women's movement organizations, and the work of those few but increasing 
feminists who are in elected or appointed political office. If the future vision for the built 
and planned environment is to be one in which the totality of women's needs is environ- 
mentally supported, then each woman must become her own architect, that is, she must 
become aware of her ability to exercise environmental judgment and make decisions about 
the nature of the spaces in which she lives and works. Women must act consciously and 
politically. We must ask ourselves who will benefit and who will lose in decisions being 
made about our neighborhoods, homes, and workplaces, and endorse those proposals that 
make life easier for us and for those groups who have the least. 

Be it affirmed 

The built environment is largely the creation of white, masculine subjectivity. It is neither 
value-free nor inclusively human. Feminism implies that we fully recognize this environ- 
mental inadequacy and proceed to think and act out of that recognition. 

One of the most important tasks of the women's movement is to make visible the full 
meaning of our experiences and to reinterpret and restructure the built environment in 
those terms. We will not create fully supportive, life-enhancing environments until our 
society values those aspects of human experience that have been devalued through the 
oppression of women, and we must work with each other to achieve this. 

These are feminist concerns which have critical dimensions that are both societal and 
spatial. They will require feminist activism as well as architectural expertise to insure a 

Leslie Kanes Weisman, Professor of Archi- 
tecture and Environmental Design at New 
Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark 
and a co-founder of the Women's School of 
Planning and Architecture, is currently writ- 
ing a book about women, architecture, and 


Landscaping plan 


Sharon Sutton 

m ^r~**®e&£* 

■rraiKss ■•ft ^"iisfSfe^ 

Sharon Sutton is an architect and PhD can- 
didate in environmental psychology at 
CUNY Graduate Center. 

Designed during her tenure as Visiting 
Professor at Franklin and Marshall Col- 
lege, Sharon Sutton's Street Museum tries 
to involve the resources and participation 
of a community— in this case the Shippen- 
Locust neighborhood in Lancaster, Pa. 
The site was a vacant lot, "loaned" to the 
community by a church. Sutton canvassed 
the neighborhood and soon discovered 
the anger and anxiety that are lodged in 
decaying places; the blame was mostly 
placed on the local youth, who took to 
vandalizing as a means of expressing their 
own frustration and alienation. The lack 
of a place for children to play was a com- 
mon complaint. In response Sutton pro- 
posed a park with a curving path connect- 
ing two streets, gently inviting movement 
into the inside — toward a more quiet, 
ordered realm than that of the mean side- 
walks. Discarded and recyclable materi- 
als, flowers transplanted from a neighbor's 
garden, and doors and windows from 
' derelict buildings (anchored with stakes) 
were the building elements. The park's de- 
sign—its intent ion— promotes the feeling 
that it is possible to make something out 
of nothing and that meaning and place— 
the very qualities that unify people and 
their environments— can be found even in 
the battered physical remains of a neigh- 
borhood. The children's murals on the 
windows and doors depict their view of 
the neighborhood; they are the beginning 
of a transformation. Projects like this one 
hold out hope. Their duration is in the 
end less important than the process that 
allows the people to organize, work to- 
gether, and succeed, beyond skepticism 
and doubt, scorn and neglect. (S.T.) 

© 1981 Sharon Sutton 


Women in the Landscape of Poverty 

iving without men or money, low-income women have been prime targets of scorn 
and mistrust. Rejecting or failing to achieve everything society has taught them to 
want, single mothers have been viewed as women with nothing to lose, and nobody 
to keep them in line. As such, they pose a certain danger to the established order. 
Their isolation and segregation in housing projects are ways of confining that threat, and 
exiling them for the crime of living without men. 

These shoddy, demoralizing environments, designed and built specifically to contain 
poor people, are called "government subsidized housing." Although such projects are not 
new or uniquely American, they have proliferated in cities across the country in the past 
20 years. The development of low-income housing has been part of the illusion of progress 
we've seen since World War II, during which time increased lip-service has been paid to 
inequalities based on race, sex, and class. However, despite the rhetoric and the numerous 
programs designed to alleviate the inequalities, 1978 found more women and Blacks living 
below the poverty level than those counted in 1968. 

The housing projects themselves did much to sustain this illusion of progress. Freshly 
painted, well-lit, and often quite spacious, the new developments that were a large part of 
urban renewal campaigns undertaken in the sixties were quickly filled with tenants while 
others signed waiting lists hoping to get in. However, these schemes like many other pro- 
grams reinforced the psychological oppression of poverty. Their standardized building 
types easily identified them as "projects" and their bad reputations began to flourish al- 
most before the tenants moved in. 

Poor families moving into the developments are given a further class branding, as if 
anyone who is poor in America is likely to forget it. A low-income woman is not only 
reminded of her status by the things she lacks, but she must identify herself by it, often 
several times a day. She must identify herself as poor when she goes into the supermarket 
and uses her food stamps, when she takes her children to the doctor with a Medicaid card, 
and, if she lives in low-income housing, whenever she gives her address. Her children, as 
well, must be identified as poor as soon as they enter the first grade and learn to answer 
that most basic question, "Where do you live?" 

Ostracism and identification are only two of the ways the projects psychologically op- 
press their inhabitants. Physically, the projects are not designed to accommodate privacy 
or comfort to any appreciable degree. In most projects the ordinary sounds of daily living 
are audible through the walls, and one family's quarrels or celebrations intrude disruptive- 
ly on the lives of neighbors. Thus, the police are called more often than in the suburbs, or 
in apartment complexes with better acoustic design, adding to the notion that the project is 
a "bad neighborhood." 

Other signs indicating that subsidized housing is designed to contain a criminal or 
"delinquent" element include the excess of lighting in parking and play areas. In the apart- 
ment where I live it is never dark (even with the shades drawn and heavy curtains on the 
windows) because the many bright globes of light that stud the project create an unnatural 
daylight that penetrates into all the apartments. Though there have been no murders or 
rapes, and few burglaries in the five years I've lived here, and I consider it to be a relatively 
safe neighborhood, it was obviously designed in anticipation of the crimes the planners 
expected the low-income community to commit. I am reminded of the writer who was 
shocked to find a similar absence of night in the Soweto ghetto, and compared its psycho- 
logical abuse to Nazi concentration camps, where bright lights also simulated an eternal 

But perhaps the most significant psychological factor of life in the projects is that the 
poor, who have little control over many aspects of their lives as it is, suffer a further loss of 
control of their children to this environment. As soon as the children leave their apart- 
ments, they are part of the neighborhood, a world that has its own laws and hierarchies 


S> 1981 Pat Therese Francis 


ii: HM Mm 

PatTherese Francis 

(often based on physical strength and "toughness"). It is one in which parents/mothers 
have little power. Since the children are crowded into small play areas, there is little 
opportunity to choose playmates for one's children, or to keep them from influences or 
knowledge they are not yet prepared for. Unlike children in most affluent neighborhoods, 
poor children generally have little opportunity to leave their projects at all, due to the 
same economic conditions that put them there in the first place. 

Often the close proximity of buildings to the play areas discourages active games such 
as baseball, which might cause windows to be broken. In fact, in one project I visited in 
Boston recently, ball playing of any kind was expressly prohibited, and signs stating that 
were posted on every building. What is most disturbing about this is not that children are 
denied the space and opportunity for the active play they need, but that they are being 
subtly punished for their parents' low-income status, and taught to view their own natural 
exuberance and energy as a negative force by the design of the buildings and layout of 
the grounds. 

Constructed as cheaply and quickly as possible, the projects are quite simply not built 
to last. This, too, adversely affects the morale of the inhabitants, who find that the poor- 
quality fixtures need replacing sooner than they should, usually at the tenant's expense. I 
am reminded of the children's story "The Three Little Pigs," in which the pig in the brick 
house has an evident psychological advantage over the one in the straw house. Likewise, 
human inhabitants of a clearly impermanent environment must be reminded daily of their 
particular vulnerabilities. Yet, when the projects show signs of wear, it is not the architects 
or builders who are called to task. It is the tenants who are blamed for failing to keep up 
the property, fueling theories that hold the poor responsible for their own misfortunes. 

Women, of course, are not the only inhabitants of subsidized housing, though female 
heads of households frequently lease one half to two thirds of the apartments in a develop- 
ment. For them, the psychological impact of life in the project can be more devastating 
than it is for male residents. Since nearly all the women in projects are mothers, often with- 
out cars or the means to secure childcare, they do not have the freedom to leave the project 
for extended periods of time. They spend most of their hours inside their apartments or in 
the neighborhood, with few releases for pent-up frustration, and little opportunity to gain 
another perspective on their situation. Obviously, this can only exacerbate the sense of 
isolation and powerlessness that accompanies poverty. Without outside stimulation and 
extensive contact with women exploring other options, women in projects find their own 
lives and what they perceive as their choices increasingly narrowed. 

In outlining the disadvantages inherent in subsidized housing, I do not mean to deny 
their advantage, which is real and needed economic help. However, there are ways to 
subsidize housing which are not stigmatizing and subtly punitive. Instead of being herded 
into projects, a low-income family can choose a reasonably priced apartment and have 
their rent subsidized in the same way it would be in the development. At this time this kind 
of help is very limited. Some families wait for years for their name to come up on a waiting 
list. In the meantime rules may be changed making them ineligible, the list may be 
scrapped, and the family then accepts their life in the project and does not seek an alterna- 

At this time there are only individual answers to the challenges of living in an environ- 
ment built for poverty, and, as women, we have come to mistrust individual answers that 
make tokens of a few while effecting no real change. It is for us to remember that poverty 
is very much a feminist issue, not only because the majority of the poor are women, but 
also because many of the tactics used to repress the poor are also used on women, what- 
ever their economic class. The weapons may be wielded differently, but they are of the 
same arsenal and can only be countered through the awareness of the "underclass," wheth- 
er that term is defined by race, economic status, or sex. 

Pat Therese Francis and her children have 
lived in a low-income housing project for 
four years. In addition to writing fiction and 
poetry, she has done public relations work 
for the Poor Women's Task Force in Am- 
herst, Mass. 



theses on Female and 

The experiments of Erik H. Erikson reported 
in Childhood and Society demonstrated a 
significant difference between structures 
built by boys and by girls. The experiments 
involved 150 preadolescent children, who 
built about 450 scenarios out of building 
blocks for stories of their own invention. 
Boys usually constructed buildings, towers, 
and streets, with one of their favorite events 
being the destruction of those elements. Girls 
generally built interior settings and rooms as 
background for family life, with an emphasis 
on the entry to the space. 

n biology and psychology, in philosophy and art, we are used to distinguishing between 
male and female elements and accepting that one without the other is unthinkable. 
Principles of architecture, along with those of science and technology, have so far been 
J considered neutral with respect to gender. Or architecture has been considered to be so 
much the domain of men that women appear as exotic intruders, who naturally have some 
difficulties in adjusting. The fact that architecture was once primarily a woman's field has 
been suppressed until very recently. After twenty years of studying and practicing archi- 
tecture, I discovered only two years ago that in nearly all the early civilizations women 
were the original builders, and that they still fulfill this role in many so-called developing 

Since building has become a specialized activity dominated by men and male values to 
the exclusion of female ones, a growing discrepancy has resulted between the social and 
psychological needs of all human beings and the planned and built environment. The 
shape an architecture might take in response to female priorities and values cannot be 
described with the same certainty as the traits of the architecture dominated by male values 
that surrounds us. However, there are some examples of so-called anonymous architec- 
ture, a few remnants of settlements of matriarchies, and a number of new critical state- 
ments from women criticizing modern architecture, as well as some built examples from 
'female architects. These works speak another language, suggesting that there would be a 
significant difference between an environment shaped mainly by men and male values and 
an environment shaped mainly by women and female values. 

Hypothesis 1 

Although it is impossible to define clear and exclusive categories for male and female archi- 
tecture, it may still be possible to distinguish, in analogy to biology and psychology, male 
and female principles in architecture. These may be used by both men and women. How- 
ever, under equal opportunity for their application (which certainly does not exist at the 
moment), women would tend to use female principles, and men male principles. 

Hypothesis 2 

Male and female principles are not exclusive categories, but rather poles defining a con- 

The Female Principles 

More user-oriented 

More ergonomic 

More functional 

More flexible 

More organically ordered 

More holistic 

More complex 

More socially oriented 

More slowly growing 

The Male Principles 

than designer-oriented 

than large-scale, monumental 

than formal 

than fixed 

than abstractly systematized 

than specialized 

than one-dimensional 

than profit-oriented 

than quickly constructed 

Merete Mattern, studies for "eco-houses," in 
which living and working are integrated. 
Houses can be placed side-by-side or stacked 

Hypothesis 3 

It is the overwhelming dominance of the male principle that is at the root of architecture's 
problems today, rather than the inherent merit of the female principle and fault of the 
male. Dominance of the female principle would be equally bad, although it may be neces- 
sary for a time to restore balance. Architecture at its best merges function and form, flexi- 
bility and inflexibility, fitness to the individual scale and appropriateness to the larger 
social context, as well as service to the user and the creative action of the designer. 

Hypothesis 4 

Only through the synthesis of all these contradictory demands is it possible to create a true 

alternative to current architecture dominated by male principles and values. 


© 1981 Margrit Kennedy 

cue rnncipies in 

ecti irp 

Margrit Kennedy 

Hypothesis 5 

Women architects are perhaps better prepared to achieve this synthesis by virtue of having 
been trained in childhood to be person-oriented, emotional, and later having been formally 
trained to be rational, logical, abstract. Their male colleagues, in contrast, are socialized 
along a one-sided male value scale which is seldom counterbalanced by an education 
including affective and social learning. 

Hypothesis 6 

Men as well as women who pursue female principles or a holistic approach to architecture 
and planning are confronted by the same barrier: the devaluation of female principles 
which began with the victory of the patriarchal system in prehistoric times. 

Hypothesis 7 

Two factors, in combination, make possible the reintroduction of the female principle: 

1. The increasingly apparent limits of growth, vanishing resources, and inadequacy of 
the linear approach. 

2. Larger numbers of women entering male-dominated fields with a consciousness of 
female values and the courage to attempt their expression in architecture, planning, 
and professional relationships. 

In addition to the manifold problems which women have in combining their professional 
lives with their roles as mothers and wives, it is often their natural skepticism toward 
standard criteria for success in a male-dominated field which hinders their development. 
That equal pay, rights, and opportunities do not necessarily mean equal values and priori- 
ties is something new and probably more difficult to define and to insist on than previous 
steps toward women's liberation. In order to take this step, women will increasingly have 
to work together, to support each other, and to encourage each other to enter, reenter, and 
stay in the profession. They possibly will have to go some part of the way in isolation in 
order to find themselves and discover what their own values and priorities are. Without 
this work for a conscious qualitative difference to what exists at present, however, the 
slow but steady quantitative increase of women in the profession will remain without 
significance for the future of our natural and built environment. 

/ think woman retains a more human relationship to human beings and is not corrupted by 
the impersonality of powerful interests. I have watched women in law, in politics, and in 
education. Because of her gift for personal relationships she deals more effectively with 
injustice, war, prejudice. I have a dream about woman pouring into all professions a new 
quality, I want a different world, not the same world born of man's need of power which is 
the origin of war and injustice. We have to create a new woman. 
.„. — Anais Nin, Notes on Feminism 


.-•© LHBt 

' aHi ■x-rriti: 

r V :. .■-■ ~v''. 

LUl I IH- -.»..,■£ ^;- s , ;!1T . rH , ^ 

Karla Kowalski, with Michael Szyszkowitz 
and Helmut Spiluttini, Funeral Chapel 
SchwarzachSt. Veit, 1978. 

There is a quantity of work both from matri- 
archal prehistoric civilizations and by wom- 
en architects today which shows a prefer- 
ence for round or oval shapes. Top: Model 
of Maltese temple, 2300-1900 B.C. Middle: 
Claude Hausermann-Costy, plan of con- 
crete-shell house. Bottom: Margot Marx 
(Offenbach), plan for socialized medical care 

Margrit Kennedy, an architect and planner 
practicing in Berlin, is currently researching 
ecology, energy, and women's projects for 
the 1984-86 International Building Exhibi- 
tion in Berlin. 





Gerda R. Wekerle 

'omen have special housing 
needs which currently are not 
being met by the open hous- 
ing market or by social pro- 
grams aimed at assisting disadvantaged 
groups. They are, instead, being met by 
women themselves. This lack of concern 
was demonstrated at a recent self-help 
housing conference held in Berkeley. 
While discussion focused on the special 
needs of Hispanics, Blacks, farmworkers, 
rural residents, and center city dwellers, 
no one mentioned women as a prime tar- 
get for these housing programs. 

Kathleen Klessen, a planner from San 
Bernadino County, California, remarked 
on this omission. She reported that, in her 
experience, women face considerable dis- 
crimination in availing themselves of 
housing rehabilitation programs. Single 
mothers are frequently ruled ineligible for 
low-interest subsidized mortgage loans on 
the grounds that child support and AFDC 
are not "predictable" income. Wherever 
"sweat equity" (the person's own labor) 
makes up for a low down payment, wom- 
en responsible for childcare may be ex- 
cluded on the grounds that they have little 
time left to renovate a building. 

Women's participation in self-help 
housing was not deemed a priority by 
conference participants. This is especially 
disturbing given that they represented a 
small but innovative housing movement, 
which celebrates individual initiative and 
collective solutions rather than reliance on 
mass housing developments and public 
housing. In many areas of the country, re- 
habilitation of abandoned or deteriorated 
dwellings is becoming almost the only 
alternative for providing low- and moder- 
ate-priced housing. New units are too 
expensive and rents have escalated in re- 
sponse to rent control (or its threat) and 
the scarcity of apartments caused by con- 
version to cooperative or condominium 

Families headed by women experience 
the greatest difficulties in this housing 
market. By March 1977, they numbered 
7.7 million, nearly one out of every seven 
families. Families headed by women are 
more likely than husband-wife families to 
have children under the age of 18, and one 
out of three lives below the poverty level, 
although more than half of the women 

work full- or part-time outside the home. 
According to a recent HUD study, fami- 
lies headed by women are less well housed 
than the general population; they live in 
older housing, which is less well main- 
tained than the national average, and they 
are more likely to rent than own. They 
are also more likely to live in center city 
neighborhoods. The likelihood of living 
in inadequate housing increases if women 
are Black, Hispanic, or heads of large 
families. Besides having less money to 
support their families, these women are 
overtly discriminated against by land- 
lords. Adequate housing costs a woman 
head of household a very much larger 
proportion of her income than it costs the 
average American. 

Women have started to take matters 
into their own hands. A recent develop- 
ment has been the emergence of several 
self-help housing projects directed exclu- 
sively at the housing needs of women 
heads of families. These projects, de- 
scribed below, have certain innovative 
features that are not generally part of 
other self-help efforts: they are grass roots 
projects originated by low-income women 
for low-income women. In responding 
specifically to the needs of women heads 
of families, the concept goes beyond shel- 
ter and incorporates necessary supports 
such as counseling, skills training, and 
provisions for childcare. 

Grass Roots Women's Program: Women's 
Information Service for Housing 

The San Bernadino County Women's 
Information Service for Housing (WISH) 
was initiated in response to demand by 
women in the community. A door-to- 
door survey of more than a thousand low- 
income households identified problems 
with existing services. Kathleen Klessen 

Housing was one of the top priorities 
mentioned in the survey. The city is low 
density, mostly single family houses. In 
going door-to-door, we found that wom- 
en are isolated, and often speak no Eng- 
lish; they are afraid to go out of the house. 

On December 19, 1978, the Commu- 
nity Services Department (CSD) organ- 
ized a workshop for 150 low-income 

women to discuss priorities for a Grass 
Roots Women's Program. The concerns 
expressed included lack of available low- 
income housing in the community, rapid- 
ly escalating rents, and the fact that single 
women with dependent children often 
cannot find suitable housing and are sub- 
ject to rent gouging. The women wanted 
particularly to learn basic repair, main- 
tenance, and renovation skills. They felt 
that rehabilitation of existing deteriorated 
or abandoned houses was the only way 
for them to ever own a home. 

Surveys made by CSD confirmed the 
severe problems identified in the work- 
shop. In 17 census tracts with more than 
20% poverty households, they found 
3,346 women heads of households and 
54,848 women ages 18-65+ living at or 
below the poverty level. More than 24% 
of the existing housing stock needed some 
kind of improvement and in the last five 
years only 60 new low-cost homes had 
been built in the county. 

In response to this critical need, CSD 
allocated $40,000 to WISH for their first 
year. Their application for $25,000 from 
the California Department of Housing 
and Community Development to set up 
a Housing Advisory Demonstration Proj- 
ect for low-income women was approved 
in spring of 1979. Of the 19 projects 
funded by the state's self-help housing 
program, this was the only one dealing 
exclusively with the housing needs of 

Key elements of the WISH proposal 
included information workshops on exist- 
ing government housing programs and 
available financing, classes in basic home 
repair skills, and plans to involve women 
in community development. The project 
had to be considerably scaled down due 
to delays in funding by the state (funds 
were obtained in March 1980, almost a 
year after program approval), changes in 
the housing market, and changes in the 
priorities of the sponsoring agency. With- 
in a year mortgage interest rates had 
peaked at 17% and a minimum income of 
$24,000 a year had become the require- 
ment for home purchasers in the county. 
Under these circumstances, the work- 
shops to teach women at the poverty level 
about home purchasing became a dead 


©1981 Gerda R. Wekerle 

Basic home repair skills such as plumb- 
ing, electrical work, bricklaying, and 
cement-laying were taught to 50 women 
who did approximately $10,000 of work 
to their own homes. So far, one graduate 
of the program has started her own busi- 
ness doing minor home repairs for a fee. 
Wherever possible, WISH planned to use 
women instructors as role models. In real- 
ity they couldn't find women instructors 
with repair skills and experienced con- 
siderable difficulty hiring skilled trades- 
persons on a part-time basis. 

The program hoped to reach 200 
women and identified women heads of 
families as its primary target group. Vari- 
ous forms of outreach, such as notices in 
supermarkets and at community centers, 
were tried. Sylvia Rodriguez-Robles, Co- 
ordinator of the Grass Roots Women's 
Program, explains, "It took time to get 
women to come to class for something as 
nontraditional as fixing up their own 
homes." To her surprise two-thirds of the 
participants were senior citizens; only 
one-third were single females with chil- 
dren. The women were given $10 per ses- 
sion to purchase childcare. 

In retrospect Rodriguez-Robles says, 
"When we started our energies were high, 
we were all geared up, but our priorities 
changed while waiting for funding a year 
later." Housing is now only one of the 
concerns of the Grass Roots Women's 
Program; currently employment and edu- 
cation have become higher priorities. Ac- 
cording to Rodriguez-Robles, it has taken 
considerable time and energy to launch a 
small, underfunded, short-term pilot proj- 
ect geared specifically toward meeting the 
housing needs of women while existing 
programs with more money and staff con- 
tinue to ignore women's needs. She sug- 
gests that women's energies might be 
better spent in enforcing compliance so 
that programs with ongoing funding wili 
increase services to women. 

Community redevelopment, especially 
involving women in planning a neighbor- 
hood environment more conducive to 
their needs, has been a long-term objec- 
tive of the WISH program. Rodriguez- 
Robles stresses: 

/ agree very emphatically that present-day 
urban cities and neighborhoods focus on 
the traditional nuclear family and give 
very little consideration to single-headed 
households. While brainstorming ideas 
for our housing repair program, we en- 
visioned a "redeveloped" neighborhood, 
with a strong sense of community support 
to the well-being of the family. This "re- 
developed" neighborhood would have a 
day-care center, a cooperative food mar- 
ket, public transit and social services at 
the neighborhood level. 

WISH has maintained community devel- 

opment as a priority. The City of San 
Bernadino has obtained funding from the 
Federal Neighborhood Housing Services 
Corporation for the revitalization of se- 
lected neighborhoods, and the Grass 
Roots Women's Program has been active- 
ly involved in the planning meetings, 
where they emphasize the need to include 
support services for families such as day- 
care and play centers for children. Rodri- 
guez-Robles reports: "When we first start- 
ed talking, this was all Greek to people, 
but now this concept of including a flexi- 
ble plan for human services has started to 
appeal to others on the steering com- 

Building for Women 

Several other projects involve women 
heads of families in self-help housing. The 
Building for Women Program for women 
ex-offenders operated by Project Green- 
hope in New York City has rehabilitated a 
house in East Harlem and gives women 
job training in repair skills. A one-year 
$80,000 CETA contract employed nine 
persons, including two administrators, 
two teachers, and five handypersons. A 
Community Development loan at 1% 
interest for 30 years allowed them to 
gut and rehabilitate a four-unit aban- 
doned building on East 120th Street. Un- 
der the terms of the loan, the women com- 
pleted all the interior demolition, site 
work, and finishing. The framing, roof, 
electrical, and mechanical systems were 
handled by professional contractors. The 
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board 
(UHAB) provided technical assistance. In 
addition, the program has received funds 
to rehabilitate a city-owned store to be 
used for their office and shop space. 

Building for Women has become a 
major community resource. They are try- 
ing to obtain more funding to renovate 
other buildings on the block and create a 
climate which will encourage private re- 
habilitation. They have a contract to 
weatherize dwelling units for low-income 
tenants, home owners, and senior citizens. 
They teach carpentry, simple repairs, and 
furniture building to other women in East 

This is a good example of a solution 
which serves several needs simultaneous- 
ly: women who are newly released from 
prison and have experienced nothing but 
failure and dependency gain valuable job 
skills and the satisfaction of successfully 
renovating a building to provide housing 
for other women like themselves. They 
become reintegrated through their work 
on community buildings and classes for 
neighborhood women. Instead of merely 
receiving assistance, they are in a position 
to offer a valuable service. 

Single Parent Housing Cooperative 

In the summer of 1979, a group of nine 
single mothers formed to develop a single 
parent housing cooperative in Hayward, 
California. Rents in the city have doubled 
in the past few years, and heavy conver- 
sion of rental units to condominium hous- 
ing has made costs prohibitive for many 
single parents. This project is now in the 
development stages: Eden Housing, Inc., 
a nonprofit developer, is directing the 
project and has a contract with the city of 
Hayward to organize and implement the 
cooperative. Funds from the HUD Com- 
munity Block Grant Program are paying 
for such pre-development expenses as site 
acquisition and architectural and staff 

A large part of the effort to date has 
involved finding single parents who might 
be prospective residents, educating them 
in cooperative principles, and involving 
them in the initial planning process. The 
developers spent three months publicizing 
the cooperative in places frequented by 
single parents— housing offices, welfare 
departments, day-care centers, and 
churches. This generated 125 inquiries. 
Since late fall of 1979, they have held 
community meetings every six to eight 
weeks with an average attendance of 35 to 
50 single parents. 

Participants have discussed and ap- 
proved the guidelines for selection of resi- 
dents. Architects Sandy Hirschen and 
Mui Ho of the Department of Architec- 
ture, University of California, Berkeley, 
are currently doing programming work 
with the staff and single parents. The plan 
is to develop a project which will house 
from 20 to 25 families and be supportive 
of their needs by incorporating childcare 
and a food cooperative. Difficulties have 
been experienced in finding a suitable yet 
affordable site for the housing. 

Some Thoughts on Women's 
Self-Help Housing 

In the past, women's housing needs 
have not been a priority either of the 
housing industry or of government hous- 
ing programs. Nor has housing been an 
issue of the women's movement in the 
same league with health care or childcare. 
None of the projects described here was 
started by professional feminists or even 
particularly supported by organized 
women's groups. The projects represent 
the grass roots initiatives of community 
women. Perhaps because low-income 
women heads of families are being so hard 
pressed in today's housing market, they 
have decided to help themselves, as no 
one else seems to care. In taking action, 
they have become much more demanding 
and visible. They are insisting that hous- 
ing programs and government agencies 
respond more directly to their needs. In 



fact, all of the women's self-help housing 
projects are affiliated either with govern- 
ment agencies or with other nonprofit 
community groups. Much as these organi- 
zations have ignored women's housing 
needs in the past, such coalitions help 
single mothers to overcome the consider- 
able obstacles relating to information, 
funding, and technical and organizational 
skills. Women, however, have learned the 
lesson of public housing and prefer to re- 
tain control and demand only the neces- 
sary resources to help themselves. 

Women have much to gain by partici- 
pating in housing rehabilitation and self- 
help housing programs. They can acquire 
decent, safe, affordable housing which 
they control. They can be directly in- 
volved in the design of the unit and can 
include provisions for collective facilities 
and shared services; they can gain job 
experience and a sense of confidence in 
their own skills. 

The projects described here are impor- 
tant because they provide models of how 
women can use self-help to house them- 

selves and their children. But each case 
also shows the obstacles that women face 
and the hard work that is required to get a 
women's self-help project off the ground. 
Women have the right to equal access to 
self-help and housing rehabilitation pro- 
grams — most of which are paid for by 
public funds. They must demand that 
existing laws like the Equal Credit Oppor- 
tunity Act (1974), which bars sex discrim- 
ination in housing and in the receipt of 
benefits from Community Development- 
assisted programs, be effectively enforced. 
Women must demand that self-help 
housing programs meet their needs. For 
instance, childcare should be included as a 
regular cost of any program. And finally, 
women must lobby for alternative home 
and neighborhood designs which will free 
them from total responsibility for their 
own family and from isolation in the 
home. Otherwise, self-help housing will 
only replicate patriarchal patterns, and 
the possibilities for real control by women 
over their housing environment will be 

The addresses of the programs described are: 

Sylvia Rodriguez-Robles 
Grass Roots Women's Program 
Community Services Department 
686 East Mill Street 
San Bernadino, Cal. 92408 

Building for Women 
448 East 119th Street 
New York, N.Y. 10035 

Single Parent Housing 
Harriet Dichter, Project Manager 
Eden Housing, Inc. 
1065 A Street, Suite 222 
Hayward, Cal. 94541 

Cerda Wekerle is Associate Professor in En- 
vironmental Studies at York University, Tor- 
onto. Canada. She is co-editor of New Space 
for Women ( Westview Press, 1980). 





* -Mm "■ 

m J 

\ -\ ■ 



\ " 

Women renovating a woman's house in Goteborg, Sweden. Photograph by Gun Anderson. Used by permission of Gun Anderson. 



Editors' Note: 

We discovered several other projects in which women have begun to take an active role in 
the planning of housing and communities. In contrast to Wekerle's examples, three of the 
following efforts illustrate projects where architects themselves have taken the initiative in 
order to share their skills and knowledge in creating environments which are more sensi- 
tive to women. Unique to all these projects, both those described by Wekerle and the ones 
that follow, is the premise that problems of housing and community are closely linked to 
all aspects of one's life — employment, transportation, day-care, and services. Whether the 
attempt to integrate these various facets of living is exclusively female is speculation at this 
point. It ,s clear, however, that the women involved in these projects have all made a com- 
mitment to structuring an environment that is much more than the simple, safe dwelling 

Women's Design Collective 

Susan Francis 

ithin the past several years in 
Great Britain women in the 
design and building fields 
have come together to discuss 
the design and production of buildings, as 
well as their personal experiences working 
in a predominantly male discipline. 
(Women constitute less than 5% of regis- 
tered architects and less than 4% of those 
employed.) The group that has formed as 
a result of these discussions maintains 
close and informal ties with the New 
Architecture Movement (NAM), a na- 
tional network of radical architects and 
building users. Among other projects, 
NAM produces a bi-monthly magazine 
called Slate (an issue of which was devot- 
ed to feminism and architecture last year). 
Initially our group of women held a 
series of open meetings to discuss sexism 
in the building press, to develop a critique 
of both the theoretical and practical work 
of particular women, to share our experi- 
ences of isolation and oppression at work 
and at home, and to promote dialogue on 
broader feminist issues. In collaboration 
with several feminist anthropologists we 
organized a conference on "Women and 
Space," which brought together from all 
over Britain women from a wide range of 
related disciplines. Several groups with 
particular objectives emerged from the 
conference, including a team of women 
who are making a film. Another group is 
attempting to develop a feminist critique 
of buildings and space which recognizes 
the importance of the social and political 
context of both the organization of pro- 
duction and the design process itself. 

Still another group, with a more prac- 
tical bias, has been working together as a 
feminist design collective. Consisting of 

about 20 women who are training or 
working as architects, this collective has 
undertaken various projects on a part- 
time basis. The projects have included 
renovating five terrace houses in South 
London into a refuge for battered women 
and their families, developing alternative 
proposals for a health care center (endors- 
ing a report produced by several commu-. 
nity groups in opposition to a plan drawn 
up by the local council and health authori- 
ty), and setting up a skills center to enable 
women to learn and practice carpentry 
and joinery skills. This last project was 
initiated with the specific intention of pro- 
viding opportunities for women who, for 
various reasons such as having children, 
find it difficult to register for government 
training courses. The design collective 
produced drawings and written informa- 
tion for the conversion of a factory unit 
into a skills center. The building work 
was done by women tradespersons, with a 
variety of skills, who came together for 
first time from different parts of Britain. 
Some of these women are now teaching in 
the skills center and others have formed a 
women's building cooperative and are 
continuing to work together in the Lon- 
don area. The skills center project was 
funded jointly by the central and local 
governments. Whether funds for similar 
projects will be available in the future is in 
doubt, given the extensive cutbacks in 
public expenditure and the negative atti- 
tude toward women's engagement in pro- 

Despite the bleak economic outlook, 
some of us feel optimistic and very excited 
about working together. Within the de- 
sign collective different interests and con- 
cerns have been expressed; we expect these 

Panel designed by NAM Feminist Group, 
exhibited at the Beauborg, Paris. Courtesy 
Susan Francis. 

to become manifest with the formation of 
several smaller groups, generating a varie- 
ty of projects. Some women hope to work 
closely with the building cooperative to 
break down traditional barriers between 
professionals and manual workers. Other 
women hope to do applied research to 
develop a feminist approach to the design 
of space. Still others wish to concentrate 
on acquiring management and design 
skills in a more conventional manner. We 
hope to maintain links with the broader 
discussion group as a means of becoming 
more aware of the specific ways in which 
women are oppressed by patriarchal de- 
sign and use of space and as a means of 
fighting collectively for changes. 

Susan Francis, an architect practicing in 
Great Britain, recently submitted a thesis, 
New Women, New Space: Towards a Femi- 
nist Critique of Building Design. 

© 1981 Susan Franc 


Sweat Equity and the Women of St. Colombo's 

1 arly in 1980 El Club del Barrio, St. 

, Columba's Church Neighborhood 
Club, paid the city of Newark, N.J., 

i $1000 for an abandoned three-story 
brick Italianate townhouse, where they 
expect to house six families through sweat 
equity. This effort symbolizes the strug- 
gles of a Hispanic Community— primarily 
women — to survive and make a better life 
for themselves and their families. It illus- 
trates the process through which women, 
who might not identify themselves as fem- 
inists, can begin to gain some control over 
their lives. Their conscious motive is to 
create a better life for their children, sug- 
gesting a certain female tenacity in the 
face of caring for and sheltering one's chil- 

This is a morality play that has not 
ended; good has not overcome evil and 
the meek have not inherited the earth — as 
yet. However, we do have players, a set- 
ting, and a classic conflict. The players are 
the Puerto Rican residents of a Newark 
neighborhood, the sisters of St. Columba's 
Church and School, the officials of the 
city of Newark, a large commercial devel- 
opment group, and the legions of gentrifi- 
cation waiting in the wings. 


Lincoln Park area of Newark, N.J. Courtesy 
Christine Lindquist. 

The setting is the Lincoln Park/ South 
Broad Street section of Newark, once the 
most fashionable area of Newark, now a 
working-class neighborhood. Magnificent 
19th-century townhouses and landmark 
churches rim the park. A half-block away 
is St. Columba's R.C. Church, a lovely 
Beaux Arts structure tucked into a tiny, 
triangular plot. Across the street is the 
school which serves as a center for the 
community. Yet, as in other cities, this 
neighborhood has its abandoned, scorched 
buildings; it lacks a healthy economic 

Christine Lindquist 

base. In 1974 it was declared a redevelop- 
ment area, which brought the promise of 
future federal monies as well as possible 
gentrification or large-scale commercial 
development. At this point the Neighbor- 
hood Club members decided to take mat- 
ters into their own hands. 

The conflict really begins in 1972, 
when a development group started to re- 
habilitate nearby buildings for Sections 
236 and 8 occupancy (federal programs 
which assist private sector development in 
target areas). Neighborhood residents 
were concerned by the poor quality of this 
work and by the fact that the buildings 
contained fewer apartments after rehabili- 
tation. A group of concerned neighbor- 
hood women began to meet with Sister 
Deborah Humphries, who had just come 
to St. Columba's as a school social work- 
er. At first they discussed their children, 

The abandoned townhouse purchased by El Club del Barrio. Photo by Gail Price. 




© 1981 Christine lindquist 

then themselves, and later the problems in 
the neighborhood — housing, drugs, and 
prostitution. They decided to take action 
and organize into two clubs: Madres en 
Accion and Madres Unidas. Initially the 
women taught each other such skills as 
cooking, guitar playing, and sewing in 
these self-help groups, which soon grew 
to include high school equivalency classes 
and numerous services related to employ- 
ment, food stamps, welfare, counseling, 
and translation. 

It became clear to them that the key 
problem was the housing crisis. The com- 
mercial development group was produc- 
ing appallingly poor housing and violating 
the rights of relocated tenants. Some ten- 
ants were given 30-day eviction notices 
although the law requires 90 days. Other 
tenants were relocated three times while 
their buildings were rehabilitated, and not 
all tenants were able to return to their 
buildings because there were fewer rental 
units. Those who could return to their 
"rehabilitated" buildings found such con- 

ditions as water running down walls, 
floors separating from partitions, un- 
dulating floors and stairwells, and tile 
floors in basement apartments which 
wore away to reveal earth underneath. 
During a discussion of his firm's work at 
the New Jersey School of Architecture, a 
representative of the developers main- 
tained that the neighborhood women's 
claims were greatly exaggerated; the 
buildings were old— what did those people 
expect anyway? 

City Hall did not officially respond to 
the club's complaints. What help did come 
was meager. After a long struggle with the 
city bureaucracy ,_ the Neighborhood Club 
purchased the building at 70 Clinton 
Avenue. The Newark Housing and Re- 
development Corporation then completed 
a set of as-built drawings for the club to 
begin its work. 

The club has elected a board of direc- 
tors to oversee the project. A modified 
sweat equity plan will be used in which 
the families will provide the unskilled 

labor, while carpenters, electricians, and 
plumbers will be paid. Finally, the six 
families have been selected and are now 
learning about the various complexities of 
self-help housing. 

We can be fairly certain that St. 
Columba's Neighborhood Club will suc- 
ceed in this housing venture, but one can 
only wonder how long people, especially 
women and children, are going to con- 
tinue to be pawns in various struggles for 
power. This story is an example of the dif- 
ficulty of putting feminist theory into 
practice. We believe that we must seize 
control over our own shelters as builders, 
designers, and consumers. This project, as 
described, is only the difficult beginning 
of that process for these women. As one 
of the women said at the onset of the 
project, "It really is survival more than 
anything else." 

Christine Lindquist grew up in Western 
Pennsylvania, left home to work as a stage- 
hand, and found her way to the New jersey 
School of Architecture in Newark. 

Women's Development Corporation 

Katrin Adam, Susan E. Aitcheson, and Joan Forrester Sprague 

Single, widowed, and divorced women 
represent roughly a quarter of this coun- 
try's population, and their numbers are 
increasing. Yet housing opportunities are 
generally based on traditional assump- 
tions that not only lead to a denial of 
equal opportunity but also do not recog- 
nize new functional needs. Restrictive 
practices affecting the lives of many wom- 
en have served to minimize their self- 
respect, hindered their access to credit, 
impeded their gaining and retaining jobs, 
and, thereby, have also reduced their 
housing opportunities. Many women face 
the burdens of poverty. Statistics show 
that on a national basis, most women who 
are heads of households live below pover- 
ty level. 

wareness of these factors led to 
the creation of the Women's De- 
velopment Corporation in 1979. 
For six years before founding the 
nonprofit organization, the three of us 
had collaborated as architects and plan- 
ners. Through paid and volunteer proj- 
ects, private practice, and the founding 
and coordination (with many other archi- 
tects and planners) of the Women's School 
of Planning and Architecture, we dis- 
covered that we shared a concern for the 
way many issues affect women. More- 
over, we shared an interest in becoming 
advocates to improve women's long-term 
housing and economic stability through 
the establishment of a nonprofit develop- 
ment corporation. 

Detailed planning for the corporation 
began in the fall of 1978. Funding was first 
sought from the U.S. Department of 
Housing and Urban Development; they 
did not finance the planning proposal, but 
the Women's Policy Program Division at 
HUD did suggest ways to proceed with 
other agencies. As a result, in addition to 
continuing our architectural and planning 
practices, we prepared a comprehensive 
proposal for funding and submitted it to 
the Community Services Administration 
in January 1979. The Economic Develop- 
ment Administration was contacted short- 
ly thereafter. Funding was granted by 
both agencies in October 1979. 

The Women's Development Corpora- 
tion's first program is located in Provi- 
dence, Rhode Island, more specifically in 
Elmwood — a multi-ethnic neighborhood 
in which more than half of the residents 
are single, widowed, or divorced women. 
The area currently has the state's highest 
percentage of families receiving welfare 
payments. The program includes plan- 
ning with neighborhood women who are 
single and heads-of-household for cooper- 
atively owned housing; it also provides 
means for women to gain housing-related 
skills and jobs, for example, in building 
construction and maintenance as well as 
housing management. The self-selected 
core housing planning group (four His- 
panic and eight Black women) has met 
weekly in an intensive capacity-building 
program with the aim of assuming leader- 
ship roles within a larger housing planning 
group including others in the community. 
The majority of these women are in their 
twenties, with from one to eight children. 

Objectives in the design of residential 
units focus on providing more variety 
than is typical in conventional apartments 
— for example, additional rooms or mini- 
units between units, to be used as shared 
guest space or rental units, and a number 
of different kitchen-dining areas, ranging 
from compact kitchen units in the living 
area to large eating/ kitchen areas to serve 
more than one family. 

© 1981 Katrin Adam, Susan Aitcheson, Joan Forrester Sprague 


Housing planning is linked to assisting 
in the establishment and growth of related 
women's businesses and jobs, as a means 
of revitalizing Broad Street, the com- 
mercial strip bounding the neighborhood 
where the housing is planned. This pro- 
gram is geared toward individual entre- 
preneurs and self-help groups at various 
stages of development, from pre-business 
to small business expansion planning. 
One self-help group receiving technical 
assistance from the program is the South 
East Asian Cooperative, a cottage handi- 
craft enterprise selling the works of over 
50 Hmong women, recent immigrants to 
Elmwood from the mountains of Laos. 
Another project entails revitalization of a 
commercial building for new businesses. 
The plan is to provide neighborhood- 
based jobs along with necessary support 
services such as day-care, building main- 

tenance, housing management, and food 
services (on a subscription or cooperative 
basis), as well as workshop and office 
space for various enterprises and organi- 

The broad aim of the Women's Devel- 
opment Corporation is to offer low- 
income women in a particular neighbor- 
hood of Providence a chance for stable 
housing within a support system network 
that encourages independence and self- 
sufficiency. This is necessary for many 
women in both urban and rural areas 
around the country. The move from pov- 
erty and welfare status to having good 
housing and work opportunities is obvi- 
ously not an overnight or simple process, 
but the ability of many women at poverty 
level to balance scanty resources and raise 
their children shows tenacity, initiative, 
and imaginative budgeting — qualities that 

can become the basis for more productive 
lives in response to a new environmental 
network offering positive opportunities. 

Katrin Adam, a practicing New York archi- 
tect, consultant, iourne\i"man" in cabinet- 
making, co-founded the Women's School of 
Planning and Architecture. She also works 
with the Women's Development Project in 

Susan Aitcheson, an architectural designer, 
coordinated several sessions of the Women's 
School of Planning and Architecture. She 
was also active in the Nourishing Space and 
Rape Crisis Center, Tuscan, Arizona. 

Joan Forrester Sprague, a practicing archi- 
tect, lecturer, and consultant, co-founded 
the Open Design Office {for women archi- 
tects and planners) and the Women's School 
of Planning and Architecture. 

Program participants learning about rtglazing windows in the building maintenance program. 



■ ^ :. " 

' V 

■ ' si '■■:-'• -:■•-=•: • 

Carpenter apprentice, member of the Wom- 
en in Construction support group. 

;rji M ^ 

Program participants and staff in the Women's Development Corporation office. 

Providence buildings like this are being con- 
sidered for substantial rehabilitation. 



Architects' Community Design Center 

A Conversation with Toni Harris 

This excerpt is from a conversation be- 
tween Toni Harris, Executive Director of 
the Architects' Community Design Center 
in East Orange, A/./., and Gail Price. The 
interview was sandwiched between meet- 
ings with the tenants' group in the Newark 
public housing rent strike and with appli- 
cants for the design center's training pro- 

Gail: How did the community design cen- 
ter movement begin? 

Toni: The community design center move- 
ment began in 1964. Design centers grew 
out of the politics of the '60s and all the 
problems of the cities. The community de- 
cided what they didn't want and what they 
wanted to restore. However, they didn't 
know if what they were dreaming about 
could be made real. They needed someone 
to help make the dreams feasible. That's 
where design Centers came in. 

When we first talked about your work 
you said you weren't an architect, but 
your work is so clearly architectural. How 
did you get started with the design center? 

In 1972 the New jersey Society of Archi- 
tects was looking for someone who could 
relate to the community and relate to 
them. I had been involved in community 
actions. I had lived in public housing and 
had been involved in improving housing 
conditions for the poor because 1 was one 
of the poor. But they were very picky. 
They checked all my references and inter- 
viewed me several times — to make sure I 
could do the job. 

Were you aware of architecture as an op- 
pressive force? 

No. Being one of the poor, architecture 
was one of the last professions I knew 
anything about. I would never have 
thought that an architect was responsible. 

Toni Harris at her desk in the ACDC office. 

I know now that architects do have a re- 
sponsibility and that there was a compro- 
mise in values and sensitivities. I do be- 
lieve that most social problems begin with 
the physical environment. There is a con- 
sciousness you get as a child from what 
you see on TV and in school books. You 
wake up and you look around and begin 
to have negative feelings about yourself. 
The people living there take out their frus- 
trations on the buildings, not really know- 
ing why. I think architects have sold out. 

What kind of architectural work would 
you like to do — your ideal kind of project? 

You have to understand that the clients 
create the projects here. We do advocacy 
planning and design. The poor are not in 
the business of building. We do mostly 
rehabs and neighborhood preservation. 
We are seldom privileged to build from 
scratch. . . . 

We do some parks, mostly 50' x 100' 
lots where a building has burned down. 
The people in the neighborhood convince 
the city to tear down the building. We try 
to do green spaces and innovative play 
spaces, like climbing areas and little houses 
for children. . . . 

I think I believe in ownership. I'd like 
to renovate a neighborhood, building by 
building, block by block, and do all the 
planning so tenants could do sweat equity 

and end up with a cooperative situation. I 
would like to see a self-sufficient neigh- 

I would do anything I could to get rid 
of public housing as it is now— under a 
housing authority. 1 would abolish high- 
rise towers. Design, density, management, 
maintenance all have to be considered. I 
would have a lot more acreage and green 
space. I would also make them more 
sturdy so people could have permanent 
homes. The poor are here because of the 
capitalistic system; they are not going to 
go away. They need to have more 
choices. . . . 

I say down with the high-rise. Give us 
open spaces and stop piling people on top 
of one another. No ball playing, no pets, 
no noise, no frogs in your pockets— these 
places offer nothing that's normal for 
American kids. 

Please tell me about the training program 
that you have for young people in archi- 
tectural drafting. It seems to me that al- 
though the products of architectural work 
are all around and influence everyone, 
you could live your whole life and never 
have to deal with an architect. It's as if 
they were invisible. . . . 

Especially if you are poor. 

This has been a dream of mine since 
1977. Black kids in the cities were not 

Ellen White, Director of the Training Pro- 
gram, discussing work with a student. 


© 1981 Gail Price 


being exposed to architecture as a profes- 
sion through their counseling, or lack of 
counseling. I thought that maybe cities 
would be better if more city youngsters 
were involved in design — but how could 
they aspire to something they knew noth- 
ing about? They had no frame of reference 
for it. We had to create opportunities for 
them to learn. We get hard-core unem- 
ployed people who have no prior training; 
we teach architectural drafting, problem 
solving, office practices, codes, construc- 
tion . . .it's now an eleven-month pro- 
gram. We then find jobs for them in archi- 
tects' offices. Two of our people have 

gone on to architecture school. One of 
our young women ended training here 
September 5th and then started architec- 
ture school the next day. She's very bright; 
she seems to be very popular; I think it's 
due to her brightness. People recognize 
her skills and know they can learn from 

People obviously must recognize your 
skills. But what about being a woman in 
this work? What's your take on that? 

There are prejudgments— she's a woman, 
a Black woman. 1 went to the architects' 
convention this past weekend, doing my 

job. We are a nonprofit corporation, and 
1 was trying to get support and contribu- 
tions from the exhibitors. I was talking to 
one man, an exhibitor, and he just turned 
his back on me. I'm sure that was because 
I'm a woman. I'm going to write to his 
company about that. . . . 

I want you to know that there are a lot 
of women out there running design cen- 
ters. It's not important to be an architect 
to run a design center; most of the women 
I know in design centers are not architects 
and they do their jobs very well. We are 
astute enough to listen and design with 
people. I like what I do. 

Resource List 

The following list of organizations and gov- 
ernment publications was compiled by Leslie 
Kanes Weisman and Helen Heifer of the 
Women's Policy and Program Staff at the 
Office of Housing and Urban Development 

American Planning Association: Planning 
and Women Division. Formed in 1979, this 
is one of the newest and largest of the 13 
subject area groups of the APA. Its two pur- 
poses are: to address issues concerning wom- 
en in the planning and development of urban 
areas and to promote the growth of women 
in the profession. The division publishes a 
monthly newsletter which is available to 
non-APA members. 
For more information, contact: 
Mary Deal, Director, Planning and Women 

American Planning Association 
1776 Massachusetts Avenue 
Washington, D.C. 20036 

National Association of Women in Con- 
struction. Established in 1955, this organiza- 
tion is composed of women in construction 
and construction-related industries. Some 
7,000 members range from owners, mana- 
gers, secretaries, bookkeepers, draftsper- 
sons, architects, and engineers to welders, 
carpenters, plumbers, subcontractors, and 
quality controllers. There are about 192 
local chapters in the U.S. and Canada. 
NAWIC offers its members educational pro- 
grams and scholarships and conducts semi- 
nars to interest women in construction ca- 
reers. Members receive a monthly newsletter 
and magazine. 

For further information, write: 

2800 West Lancaster 
Fort Worth, Texas 76107 

National Congress of Neighborhood Wom- 
en. This grass roots community organization 
is currently directing a six-month planning 
project to establish a Low-Income Women's 
Resource Center in Washington, D.C. The 
goal of the project is to strengthen the capa- 

bilities of low-income women in identifying 

and marshalling resources to improve the 

quality of life for themselves, their families, 

and their communities. 

For further information, contact: 

Jan Peterson, Executive Director 

National Congress of Neighborhood Women 

11-29 Catherine Street 

Brooklyn, New York 11211 

Women's School of Planning and Architec- 
ture. Founded in 1974, this national summer 
program provides a supportive and experi- 
mental forum in which women interested in 
the built and planned environment can ex- 
change ideas and skills. The openness of the 
program and the experience of sharing with 
other women of diverse backgrounds make 
WSPA a unique learning opportunity. Dur- 
ing the year, WSPA serves as a personal and 
professional network of women working for 
feminist social change via the environment. 
For more information, write: 
Women's School of Planning and 

6706 5th Street 
Washington, D.C. 20012 

Women and Environments International 
Newsletter. Published three times a year, the 
newsletter serves as an information and per- 
sonal contact network. It publishes brief 
articles, book reviews, research abstracts, 
curricula descriptions, letters, events, and 
conference reports pertaining to women and 
the environment. 
For more information, contact: 
Women and Environments International 

c/o Faculty of Environmental Studies 
4700 Keele Street 
Downsview, Ontario, Canada M3J2R2 

Women's Policy and Program Staff. This 
office within HUD helps individual women 
consumers and women's organizations to 
benefit more fully from HUD's housing and 
community development programs. WPPS 
reviews new and proposed policies of HUD 
programs and works with policy makers to 
modify or revise policies which adversely 

affect women beneficiaries. The office serves 
as an advocate for women consumers and 
for women's needs regarding housing and 
community development issues. In order to 
encourage women to participate in the im- 
plementation of HUD programs in their 
neighborhoods, WPPS organizes seminars 
and conferences and distributes information. 
Currently WPPS is focusing on issues such 
as emergency housing for victims of family 
violence, participation of women business 
owners as contractors in HUD programs, 
the effectiveness of existing housing assis- 
tance programs in meeting the needs of 
female-headed households and women liv- 
ing alone, and the availability of suitable 
housing for women with children. 
If you would like to be on the HUD mailing 
list or want further information, write: 

Women's Policy and Program Staff 
Room 4212 
Department of Housing and Urban 

Washington, D.C. 20410 

Government Publications 

How Well Are We Housed? Female Headed 
Households. Publication No. HUD-PDR- 
344. Office of Dissemination and Transfer, 
HUD, Room 8124, Washington, D.C. 20410. 

Women and Housing: A Report on Sex Dis- 
crimination in Five American Cities. Pre- 
pared by the National Council of Negro 
Women, Inc., under HUD contract. Report 
0-213-025, 1976. $3.40 per copy through 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Govern- 
ment Printing Office. 

Planning, Women and Change. Prepared by 
the American Society of Planning Officials 
under HUD contract. Report 301, April 
1974. $6.00 per copy through ASPO, 1313 
East 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois. 

Women and the Mortgage Market. Prepared 
by Ketron, Inc., under HUD contract, March 
1976. Copies available from Office of Dis- 
semination and Transfer, HUD, Room 8124, 
Washington, D.C. 20410. 







!._; i. 

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A housing plan that resembles rug pat- 
terns or pattern painting? "Carpet hous- 
ing" is a type of design for apartments that 
assumes a great density of residential use 
at the ground level— covering a site like a 
"carpet." In general, but not exclusively, 
carpet housing includes private and shared 
courtyards. The form itself is derived 
from centuries-old Mediterranean villages, 
where individual and community were 
subtly balanced. In this housing scheme 
for Queens, New York, Rutholtz and Sung 
have made the shared-entry courtyards 
the focus of each cluster of apartments. A 
center for gathering and meeting, each 
courtyard is given prominence in the hier- 
archy of places in the housing project. 
Volumetrically and spatially, the design- 
ers have created a rich and variegated sys- 
tem out of a clear order that acknowledges 
both the complexity of human life and the 
power of the human mind to abstract 
form as an expression of values. (S.T.) 

Ruth Rutholtz and Diana Ming Sung worked 
as a team on this project. They are third-year 
students at the Graduate School of Architec- 
ture and Planning at Columbia University. 
Rutholtz is also an accomplished profession- 
al musician. 


Ruth Rutholtz and Diana Ming Sung 


l ^ra?w^ 



■ -K»w«ii v— -rp=*==8e**SS! q YrrJ\-i***%l V 

© 1981 Ruth Rutholtz, Diana Ming Sung 


The Woman's Commonwealth 

A Nineteenth-Century Experiment 

Gwendolyn Wright 

r ineteenth-century America once 
abounded with communitarian 
settlements, each dedicated to 
the realization of a new and 
better society. More than 300 experiments 
defined new types of environments to ex- 
press their philosophies. Inmost instances, 
commitment to social change encouraged 
a more egalitarian attitude toward wom- 
en. Communities reevaluated the female 
role and domain, breaking down tradi- 
tional dress codes and work assignments, 
encouraging equal participation, and 
often using women's design skills. Only 
one group took this challenge to its ex- 
treme and established a setting designed 
to accommodate a predominantly female 

Most communitarian settlements — 
present-day communes, as well as the 
political and religious experiments of the 
past — have tried to develop a unique style 
of living. This individualist style gives the 
group an identity separate from outsiders 
and also acts as an outward sign of inner 
unity and purpose. The Woman's Com- 
monwealth was conspicuously unique in 
its female membership, although the 
group occasionally admitted men. The 
Commonwealth women never preached 
or proselytized, yet daily they turned 
away requests for membership during 
their most successful years. Renunciation 
of their earlier lives strengthened the ties 
among the women, who usually num- 
bered around 32 adults, but reached a 
high of 50 in 1880. Celibacy and religious 
fundamentalism earned the Common- 
wealth a certain notoriety as extremist, 
but, for these women, the mark of their 
community was their carefully deliberated 
way of life. 

The Commonwealth originated in Bel- 
ton, Texas, 140 miles south of Dallas, a 
frontier town of only a few thousand peo- 
ple when Martha McWhirter — the group's 
leader — began her weekly prayer meet- 
ings in 1866. Ridiculing their beliefs, es- 
pecially McWhirter's claim that she could 
communicate directly with God, without 
a male minister's intervention, the towns- 
people labeled the group Sactificationists 
or Sanctified Sisters, a title they accepted 
rather than adopted. "Sanctification" was 
the group's term for a pentecostal vision. 
McWhirter taught that a "sanctified" wife 
should separate herself from an "unsancti- 
fied" husband. It was not only modesty 
that kept the group from admitting their 

stance of celibacy publicly, however. A 
wife's admission of celibacy meant that 
she forfeited all her property rights in a 
divorce trial. Celibacy was, for the Com- 
monwealth as for the Shakers, also a 
practical issue, an escape from the hard- 
ship and grief that burdened most frontier 
women, who had little information about 
contraception techniques. The only ac- 
ceptable alternative to too many children, 
and to the pain of many of those children 
dying young, was religious censure of 
sexual activity. 

The Commonwealth's separatism was 
a touchy issue, and the Belton women 
who committed themselves to this group, 
often leaving their husbands if the hus- 
bands protested, faced years of ostracism 
and even physical attack for their choice. 
During their early years the Sisters tried 
to follow their religious beliefs, which in- 
cluded celibacy, in their own homes. 
Gradually, as opposition mounted and 
husbands protested, as the women were 
stoned on the streets and beaten in their 
houses, they began to share quarters for 
safety and sympathy. Several moved in 
with McWhirter, whose husband oblig- 
ingly moved out. By 1883 they were 
building houses on their own land to ac- 
commodate the larger number of women. 
Animosity only increased with this isola- 
tion, however, for angry husbands organ- 
ized vigilante groups and shot bulletholes 
in the front door of their homesteads, try- 
ing to scare the women home. 

Yet, within 15 years, these women had 
challenged the authoritarian doctrines of 
their local churches and come to be ac- 
cepted by the ministers. They had assert- 
ed their financial and sexual independence 
from their husbands, and won from the 
courts the custody of their children and 
the right to keep their own money. They 
had reversed a town-wide boycott to be- 
come economically successful and estab- 
lished a tight communal household. They 
had also given themselves a new, more 
secular name, more in keeping with their 
beliefs — and their statewide fame. The 
Woman's Commonwealth had become so 
successful that when they decided to retire 
to Mt. Pleasant, outside Washington, 
D.C., in 1899, the town of Belton begged 
them to remain. 

Religion was the binding force of the 
group. A communal pietism based on per- 
sonal devotion and visionary messages 
raised their spirits. Communism was their 

economic base, a simple and direct policy 
of sharing work and return equally among 
themselves. Both concepts were common 
in the West of the 19th century, where 
economic cooperation was often neces- 
sary and where women socialized most 
often through Bible study and prayer 
groups. The Commonwealth applied the 
principles of equality and independence to 
their rights as women. Martha McWhirter 
expressed the connection explicitly: 

It was no longer women's duty to remain 
with a husband who bossed and con- 
trolled her. God made man and woman 
equal, and to woman in these last few 
days he has revealed his will concerning 
his own elect few. We are to come out and 
be the "peculiar" people. 

Her statement connected the issues that 
brought the women together. They clear- 
ly felt themselves to be unique and impor- 
tant. Isolation was an initial stage, but 
while it was a conspicuous and controver- 
sial stand, it was not a moral position. 
While boundaries remained firm in 
their life style, the women eventually 
opened their environment. In 1886 the 
Commonwealth opened its doors to the 
public as the Central Hotel. It was unusual 
in the annals of communitarian history 
for a separatist group to share its ter- 
ritory, and equally unusual for a public 
hotel to function as a feminist enclave. 
The initial response from the town was a 
year-long boycott. But the Common- 
wealth women were secure enough in 
their beliefs to hold out. They were ready 
to have strangers share their territory, 
even if the strangers were traveling sales- 
men from other parts of the state. McWhir- 
ter arranged to have a spur of the railroad 
run through the town. She had the station 
built on the land she owned across from 
the Central Hotel. Advertising broadsides 
were distributed across the state, and the 
stories of excellent service, "home cook- 
ing," embroidered linens, and the elegant 
quarters of the hotel passed by word of 
mouth. For each new enterprise — the ho- 
tel, a dairy — the group conducted exten- 
sive research of other successful enter- 
prises. Several Sisters, traveling in pairs, 
had journeyed to neighboring towns to 
work as chambermaids and gain first- 
hand knowledge of hotel management, 
for instance. Others made expeditions to 
Wisconsin dairy farms and to New York 
City hotels, later in the group's history. In 


© 1981 Gwendolyn Wright 

time, the people of Belton gave in. The 
Central Hotel was not only one of the 
best-known hostelries in the state, it also 
became the town's social center, where 
people collected for visits and meals on 
the weekends. 

The women of the Commonwealth 
were also peculiar in their insistence on 
building, as well as designing, the various 
structures which made up the Central Ho- 
tel. In their first effort of 1883, they had a 
few days of advice from a local builder 
and some help from sons. They completed 
the house in less than a week. Three ad- 
ditional wood-frame houses went up dur- 
ing the'next 18 months. Throughout their 
stay in Belton the women continued to 
buy and ; mprove land, to build and rent 
houses, and consequently to play a major 
role in the town's development. (They 
sponsored several important public build- 
ings, including the train station and a 
large theater, as well as the quasi-residen- 
tial buildings of their own.) The largest 
structure on their hotel site was the yellow- 
brick building of 1891, but the women 
also erected 14 other frame buildings or 
additions during their stay in Belton. The 
hotel itself was a product of accretion, not 
of a single master plan. As we shall see, 
they not only built as the need arose, they 
also changed the use of various buildings, 
according to the number of visitors, the 
size of their own group, and the activities 
they were sponsoring. 

The ability to make a success of the 
hotel was based on three principles: prag- 
matic decision-making under McWhirter's 
guidance, behavior research into efficient 
methods and client's preferences, and spi- 
ritual self-examination by the group as a 
whole. While most decisions came from 
their leader, many policies emerged from 
interpretations of the dreams of other 
members, discussed in informal meetings. 

This was particularly the practice with 
decisions within the group— arrangements 
for a trip to New York, the choice of their 
retirement home, for instance— while 
McWhirter defined policy with the out- 

The women of the Commonwealth be- 
lived that God spoke to them in revela- 
tions, giving daily guidance in dreams or 
visions, or occasionally in a less specific 
"delicate sense" which affected the group 
more or less as a whole. Interpretation 
was seldom a private matter, however, 
but came in group self-examination and 
open discussion. McWhirter's authority 
could support such dramatic participa- 
tion, for her position was never ques- 
tioned. In a deposition at the divorce pro- 
ceedings of her daughter she humbly said: 

We have and believe in dreams and reve- 
lations from God. My judgment is gene- 
rally taken in these matters by the mem- 
bers as best; but each member has about 
as clear an understanding of our revela- 
tions as the others have. 

Decisions were a collective matter, then, 
based on McWhirter's authority, but also 
on self-examination and private musings. 
Dream interpretation was as important a 
consideration as the group's businesslike 

The Commonwealth had first sepa- 
rated from the dominant society around 
them for self-protection, opening their 
doors once group bonds could support 
public exposure. The hotel venture was, 
of course, an economic undertaking, but 
the change in policy was also a move 
toward more worldly values. Such a shift 
compares with the current women's 
movement which, after an initial period 
of separation and consciousness-raising, 
seems to be moving toward renewed ex- 
changes with the larger world. Many of 

The Woman's Commonwealth, 1902. Courtesy Gwendolyn Wright. McWhirter is the second 
woman seated from the left. 

the difficulties the Commonwealth wom- 
en faced — isolation in separate homes, 
boring routines of housework, questions 
of self-identity and autonomy, legal in- 
equalities—exist today. Then as now, 
spaces with associations of certain rela- 
tionships, spaces like the kitchens and 
bedrooms and yards of their separate 
houses, encouraged certain ways for these 
women and their husbands to act. The 
Commonwealth's new spaces, and their 
ongoing experimentation with the envi- 
ronment, allowed for both the women 
and the men to change their ways of 

The Commonwealth women broke 
with the traditions of their town, with the 
way of life and the spaces that were sup- 
posedly appropriate for them. As reli- 
gious pietists, they tried to create a place 
of peace and simplicity; as communists, 
they encouraged shared tasks and an effi- 
cient, joyous attitude toward work; as 
women, their specific goals were less 
clear-cut, but, I believe, especially strong. 
Their spatial organization reveals special 
concern for self-identity and pride in the 
experiences of daily homemaking. The 
spaces were ambiguous, chameleonlike, 
capable of being used in many different 
ways and by many different people. The 
interplay of public and private, sociability 
and self-awareness, remains one of the 
principal issues of feminism. Let me brief- 
ly consider how the environment the 
Commonwealth created related to these 
three sets of principles. 

Emphasis on self-control and direct 
communication with God, familiar stan- 
dards in American religious movements, 
has often led to asceticism, particularly in 
such material forms as buildings, furnish- 
ings, and clothing. This was true of the 
Woman's Commonwealth, which pre- 
ferred simplicity and practicality to elabo- 
rate decoration. But austerity is too severe 
a label for such an aesthetic. With the 
Commonwealth, as with the Shakers, un- 
pretentious styling was a conscious con- 
trast to gingerbread detailing and "femi- 
nine" finery. For Victorian women, the 
house was demanding, with its profusion 
of objects and its elaborate symbolic ref- 
erences to sexual roles. Alternative styles 
in housing signified new sexual roles as 
well as a different design image. 

The Central Hotel, created over a five- 
year period from 1886 to 1891, presented 
an unassuming facade and uncluttered 
interior. The site plan shows a series of 
buildings, built on or moved to the lot as 
they were needed. The interplay between 
this ongoing growth and the pietist respect 
for environmental design created a variety 
of spaces: a wooded yard of 100 square 
feet separating the older building from 
Main Street; an adjacent side yard for the 
hotel; a kitchen courtyard, paved in brick, 
to the rear; a narrow, irregularly shaped 



plot spreading flowers beneath the dining 
room windows; a spacious area behind 
the two main buildings, divided into vege- 
table gardens, groves of fruit trees, and 
work areas by walkways and out-build- 
ings. This too was based on a restrained, 
but scarcely a harsh aesthetic ideal. 


The Central Hotel, 1891. Main Street eleva- 
tion. Courtesy Gwendolyn Wright. The cir- 
culation system of three-story galleries pro- 
vided wide, continuous porches. Here guests 
could visit and the sisters could work. 

Interiors, like the women's starched 
white aprons and black dresses, were at 
first strictly plain. But as the hotel busi- 
ness began to thrive, the Sisters returned 
to embroidering pillowcases and embel- 
lishing the parlors. They were now acting 
from personal preference and not from 
dictated taste. By the time they left Belton 
and moved to Mt. Pleasant, styles were 
often elaborate and worldly. The young 
girls who were with the group — and en- 
joying it immensely, from all accounts — 
socialized and lavishly decorated their 
rooms. What the world labeled "femi- 
nine" was no longer an aesthetic which 
shielded them from the world, and they 
could freely enjoy decoration. 

The Mt. Pleasant home — a structure 
they purchased for $23,000 and then re- 
modeled to the tune of another $10,000, 
so that it would fit their communal needs 
—was a dignified, but quite splendid 
building. It stood three stories high, in 
grey brick, with two octagonal mansard 
towers looking out over the lawn and 
street. This was the chosen expression of 
the Commonwealth's design philosophy, 
at the point when most of the group had 
become bored with the limited challenges 
of rural Texas and wanted a more cosmo- 
politan life. McWhirter's description of a 
piano sent by the town of Belton for their 
new home describes their aesthetic: 

We are delighted with it—so sweet-toned, 
and the case could not suit us better- 
plain and yet grand. We are all well and 
delighted with our new home. Have made 
substantial and elegant improvements. 

For them, after an initial period of caution 
and restraint, neither pietism nor femi- 
nism had to mean severity. 

With a theoretical background con- 
sisting of little more than a belief in 
equality and a foundation in religious 
apostolic traditions, these women devel- 
oped from a group of backwoods eccen- 
trics into a sophisticated social and eco- 
nomic organization. The naive beginning 
and the shared ideals stayed with them, 
nonetheless. A Washington journalist said 
admiringly that "the organization is due 
not to a theory, but to the practical neces- 
sities of the women composing it." That 
pragmatic approach was also reflected in 
the group's working arrangements. 

Communism was, for them, a total 
way of life that benefited from a new set 
of work spaces. The Commonwealth's 
work attitudes brought down established 
partitions. In the Central Hotel, dining, 
work, and sitting areas were continuous. 
Large pantries and courtyards became 
integrated parts of the kitchen. The for- 
mal front parlor looked directly into the 
office lobby through a row of Corinthian 
columns, but not a wall. The group's 
schedule accentuated the room organiza- 
tion. Every woman's work day was of- 
ficially only four hours long. The rest of 
the day was hers. Jobs rotated, weekly, 
giving everyone a share of the possible 
experiences and skills. Most important, 
the women could work with other people 
around, either one another or visitors to 
the hotel, rather than being isolated. 
There were also numerous places to go off 
by oneself when a woman wanted some 
real privacy. Every woman had the pos- 
sibility of working as she wanted, and of 
choosing from many different kinds of 
spaces and different levels of social inter- 

The domestic styles prevalent at the time 
reinforced a separation between family 
and servant, man and woman, adult and 
child, by dividing the home into separate 
zones for socializing, housework and 
cooking, and privacy. Even though the 
layout of rooms and their size were begin- 
ning to respond to practical needs, rather 
than rules of symmetry, house plans still 
maintained a strict hierarchy. Similarly, 
in the Central Hotel plan, the location of 
kitchen and work spaces in the rear of the 
house did perpetuate some distinction be- 
tween guests and workers, although iso- 
lating the smells and hot stoves was an 
important consideration for a hotel. How- 
ever, the traditional "servant's area" or 
"woman's space" was a pleasant space in 
which to work, a space that was shared 
with other women and, when one moved 
out into the porches or yards, with people 
outside the group as well. 

The Commonwealth buildings were 
an expression of one version of a feminist 
environment, at first harboring a group of 

women, eventually giving expression to 
some of their values and experiences. Self- 
identity was an immediate and concrete 
goal for the Commonwealth. Their beliefs 
incurred a hostility that made living in 
society difficult and demoralizing. There- 
fore, the new surroundings supported 
these beliefs. Small individual bedrooms 
acknowledged their sexual code, as well 
as their respect for each woman's need for 
some privacy. Large group areas provided 
room for shared work and meetings. The 
reinforcement encouraged a high level of 
productivity, and the differences respect- 
ed their chosen life. Such a focus on self- 
identity was a necessary first step before 
experimenting with other values environ- 

The notion of adaptability soon came to 
play an important role in the Common- 
wealth's planning. It presupposed the free- 
dom to reinterpret a given situation, to 
undergo change oneself. The Central Ho- 
tel bridged public and private spaces and 
made them both adaptable to numerous 
uses. Contemporary books on household 
decoration, in contrast, described efficient 
service areas and elegant reception rooms, 
but kept them rigidly separate and dis- 
tinct. The women of the Commonwealth 
adopted some of the practicalities that 
had developed in these books on the 
home, and combined them with the grand- 
er architectural considerations in architec- 
tural treatises on public buildings. Their 
spaces adapted to the comforts and work- 
a-day considerations of the home, and 
also to the excitement and imposing pre- 
sence of the civic building. This combina- 
tion allowed for variations of the set be- 
havior that had been associated with the 
two different kinds of spaces, for now 
they had been merged. 

One aspect of adaptability was the 
multiple use of a space. Unfettered by 
traditional roles and averse to elaborate 
decoration anyway, the Commonwealth 
women reexamined the static definition of 
rooms. An important goal seems to have 
been spontaneous exchanges through 
mixed use of a space. This applied to 
guests, for whom the front parlor was a 
community meeting room, the town's first 
library, and a Sunday socializing spot. 
The Sisters' sitting room had a multiple 
focus too:, prayer meetings, financial con- 
ferences, family visits, informal discus- 
sions, and other activities all took place 
here. The Mt. Pleasant parlor had a simi- 
lar pattern of uses. It was a school — for 
children in the mornings and for the 
women themselves in the evenings. It also 
had ingenious arrangements that allowed 
the room to be used for dentistry, shoe- 
mending, rug-weaving, and other self- 
taught trades which the women continued 
to ply. 

In theory, and in site plan, the Com- 
monwealth women always had their own 



Pearl Street 

Mari Street 

Plan. Central Hotel, 1896. Courtesy Gwendolyn Wright. Note the open plan for communal 
work and social spaces in both main buildings. Private areas were scattered in small clusters. 

area: bedrooms, sitting room, galleries 
overlooking interior courts where they 
worked, and, with the completion of the 
main building in 1891, a separate entrance. 
However, when the hotel became crowd- 
ed, the Sisters would double up and give 
over their rooms, as well as their social 
spaces, to visitors. This act may have 
been a show of humility and self-sacrifice, 
a pure matter of pragmatic business con- 
siderations, or a testing of their unity. 
Whatever the rationale, the process de- 
mystified the environment— both per- 
sonal space and group turf— by opening it 
so easily to outsiders. The continuum 
between private space and public space 
encouraged the group's closeness and, 
simultaneously, facilitated their ties with 
the rest of their community. 

Commitment to Commonwealth be- 
liefs was essentially a private, internal 
matter. Individuals cannot create sacred 
spaces for themselves if their rooms can 
be given over to strangers. If the group's 
special territory is undifferentiated from 
that of outsiders, there can be no exclu- 
sive place for reinforcing group identity. 
Separation from society for these women 
did not involve protecting a sacred center 
for themselves. Of course, most women, 
then as now, make a similar adaptation: 
all the space in a home is shared, so that 
they must learn to withdraw into an inner 
space for privacy and reflection. When 
others share and respect this mechanism, 
the inward retreat can be a positive step 
toward developing one's sense of self; 
otherwise, the search for inner space is 

principally negative, an attempt to escape 
outside pressures. 

Another important attribute often as- 
sociated with women is attention to social 
spaces, a desire to create places for friend- 
ly and spontaneous mixing. (Today soci- 
ologists have coined the word "sociopetal" 
to indicate that such places tend to bring 
people together.) Perhaps the Central Ho- 
tel's most successful social space was the 
spacious gallery system that connected 
the various parts of the hotel. These co- 
vered arcades of one, two, or even three 
stories looked out over the town's main 
street or else on a garden. While the porch 
system itself was clearly not an innova- 
tion, particularly in the South, this com- 
plex adaptation extended the porch's so- 
cial possibilities. The typical vernacular 
porch was an architectural adjunct to the 
house, a place where people could watch 
the activities taking place outdoors. In the 
Central Hotel complex, the galleries were 
widened so that a variety of activities 
could go on simultaneously. They were 
more than circulation spaces or places to 
sit and look out. Here one found some 
women working, others talking together, 
visitors lounging, and townspeople min- 
gling in the activities on the porch. 

The aim of the Women's Common- 
wealth, in their buildings and their philo- 
sophy, was neither final perfection nor an 
enduring pure form, but continuous in- 
volvement in process. They respected the 
work, the cycle that went into making a 
home environment, a meal, a pillow, or a 
friendship. Rather than focusing on only 

the shell of external appearances— dress, 
house facade, acceptability— they turned 
their attention to meeting other needs 
which were constantly changing. This ap- 
proach allowed them to undergo many 
changes themselves, and eventually en- 
couraged them to leave their little town, a 
town that had come to revere this eccen- 
tric group of women, to seek new experi- 
ences elsewhere. Their building history 
exemplifies this attitude. Evolution as a 
group, like their design approach, had no 
ultimate goal, but consisted of a series of 
experiments. For some 40 years, they 
lived in this way, until McWhirter's death 
in 1904, at the age of 77, when the organi- 
zation began to move on, in different 


I would like to thank Dolores Hayden, 
Susana Torre, and Sheila Levrant de Brette- 
ville for their responses to this article in an 
earlier form. Three women of Belton — 
Vada Sutton, Lena Armstrong, and Bernetta 
Peeples— were extremely helpful during my 
research there, and deserve special thanks 
for keeping this piece of history alive, even 
though the buildings have been destroyed, 
in typical American fashion, for a gas sta- 
tion and parking lot. 

Friend, Llena, "Texas Communism or 
Socialism— Early Style," Library Chronicle 
of University of Texas, Vol. VII, No. 3 
(Summer 1963). 

Garrison, George P., "A Woman's Com- 
munity in Texas," The Charities Review, 
Vol. Ill, No. 1 (Nov. 1893), pp. 28-46. 

Gerry, Margarita Spalding, 'The Wom- 
an's Commonwealth of Washington," Ains- 
lee's Magazine, Vol. X, No. 8 (Sept. 1902) 
pp. 133-141. 

Hayden, Dolores, Seven American Uto- 
pias: The Architecture of Communitarian 
Socialism, 1790-1975 (Cambridge: MIT 
Press, 1976). 

Hinds, William Alfred, American Com- 
munities and Cooperative Colonies, 2nd Ed. 
(Chicago: Kerr, 1908), pp. 434-441. 

James, Eleanor, "The Sanctificationists 
of Belton," The American West, Vol. II, No. 
3 (Summer 1965), pp. 65-73. 

Kent, Reverend Alexander, "The Wom- 
an's Commonwealth," U.S. Labor Bulletin, 
No. 35 (July 1901), pp. 563-646. 

Roth, Aline, "Texas Women's Common- 
wealth," The Houston Chronicle Magazine 
(Nov. 19, 1950). 

Temple Chamber of Commerce, Bell 
County History (Fort Worth: University 
Supply & Equipment Co., 1958). 

Tyler, George W., The History of Bell 
County (Belton: Dayton Kelley, n.d.). 

Records of the County Clerk in Belton, 
Texas, and various newspapers. 

Gwendolyn Wright is an architect and au- 
thor of An Illustrated History of Housing 
andMoralism and the Model Home. She re- 
ceived a Ford foundation Fellowship to re- 
search colonial urbanism in the Third World 
with Paul Rabinow. 




Phyllis Birkby 

yirginia Gray's adobe house and Caroling's stained-glass dome can be seen as very 
personal and idiosyncratic spatial icons, but in fact they evidence a commonly 
shared sensibility among women. Over a two-year period Leslie Weisman and I 
collected hundreds of fantasy drawings by women all across the U.S.* These 
drawings representing women's hopes and frustrations in relation to the built environ- 
ment, to shelter and to dwelling, had a great deal in common, and they can be compared 
to the adobe house and the dome. Both the drawings and the built projects are similar in 
form and they reveal a common content. The implied message is the desire to take control 
of space, space being at once the container of and a metaphor for life itself. 

The drawings proved very valuable for both the maker of the image and for myself as 
its facilitator. The very process of making the images was a consciousness-raising experi- 
ence. The cumulative result was a trove of images and symbols many women can identify 
with. But while these images can be seen as a point of arrival, they should also be seen— 
and I think this is even more important— as a point of departure. Fantasy is often the stage 
where women remain for lack of opportunities; to believe that the dream cannot be ful- 
filled leads to accepting any situation as stagnant and frustrating. Dreams of change and 
hope should not remain elusive images in the mind or even on paper. The act of drawing or 
writing is always the beginning of a more concrete communication. 

These acts are different from conversation, which is remembered selectively— parts 
forgotten or rearranged in memory and often translated into gossip. Unlike conversation, 
drawing and writing create tangible bases to build on. 

While it has been delightful to see in the fantasy drawings confirmation of a common- 
ality of form and content among women, it has been even more rewarding to see in the 
drawings evidence of women taking control of space to meet their own needs, emotions, 
and desires. In doing so, women are building on their own and other women's fantasies. 
Isn't this the meaning behind the seeming coincidence of a woman drawing and writing 
about her dream in New York (Frances Doughty) and another in California (Caroling) 
building an almost identical dream as a material reality? Isn't this why Virginia Gray's 
statements about her adobe house contain so many things in common with not just an- 
other woman's but with many other women's fantasies? Don't we find here evidence of 
what some call "female sensibility"? Aren't these signs of a common foundation for the 
expression of a uniquely female imagery of built form? Doesn't this show a creative process 
that emphasizes those qualities our culture associates with the female principle, with a 
greater reliance on feeling and intuition, on things not too carefully planned by choice? 

Although the visions and processes presented here record individual endeavors, they 
provide us with the hope that is needed to move and build beyond idle dreams and desires. 
When we see that these individual solutions are not singular but exemplary, we realize that 
what is possible for one becomes possible for all. And what works for one woman's needs 
may be translated, as these projects suggest, and expanded to meet the needs of a group. 
The form achieved is both personal and collective, resonating with common meanings as it 
is communicated to others. 

*See Noel Phyllis Birkby and Leslie Kanes Weisman, "Women's Fantasy Environments," Here- 
sies, No. 2 (May, 1977), pp. 116-117. See also drawings at top of page. 










Virginia Gray's Adobe House 

Virginia Gray's adobe house is located 
in Santa Fe, an area rich in vernacular 
adobe construction, a building tradition 
continued by the native Pueblo popula- 
tion and adopted by the Anglo settlers. 
Virginia Gray settled there some 20 years 
ago after college and became a potter. 
Though she no longer makes pots, her 
knowledge and empathy with the ways of 
clay and mud have once again found ex- 
pression in the larger container of her own 
house. The original rectangular house, 
designed by a male architect friend, was 
built ten years ago. This house was ser- 
viceable and comfortable enough, but Vir- 
ginia eventually felt an urgent desire to 
make a space that would be more closely 
responsive to her own life. It would seem 
from the juxtaposition of the original 
house and Virginia's own addition that 
her impulse to break out of the rectangle 
results in an almost literal explosion 
through the wall. But in the end the new 
space does not entirely replace the old; 
rather, it establishes with it a dialogue be- 
tween hard and soft, straight and curved, 
static and flowing spaces. Opposites are 
subtly transformed into options. 

The new space seems to rush out and 
around the fireplace (a metaphor for the 
birth of this space?), which is like a tree 
trunk serving as a pivot for both horizon- 
tal and vertical movement. One climbs up 
this "tree" into an aerie — a very private, 
glassed-in space opening to views in all 

The larger space below is reversed in 
direction, with the three seating niches or 
alcoves (each different in size and feeling) 
clustering inward about the hearth. Vari- 
able degrees of privacy and togetherness 
are easily formed and communicated by 
the options and choices presented. Al- 
though not literally a womb, the space 
does seem to contract or expand accord- 
ing to each different use. 

Caroling's Dome 

Caroling's dome is in the backyard of 
her own simple dwelling in Sonoma 
County, California. Partially hidden in 
the shrubbery, the gleaming dome reveals 
itself as one approaches it by foot from 
the road. Its entrance faces the path, in- 
viting but not commanding entrance. En- 
tering this space means participating in an 
act of physical and spiritual transforma- 
tion. Colored light bathes everything in- 
side: space, people, the soft surfaces, and 
the simple pillows and carpets used to fur- 
nish the space. Thus there is a wondrous 
unification, but one that changes with 
every movement and change of light. It is 
difficult not to experience a sense of in- 
stant connection with those who are gath- 
ered inside, of belonging to the same uni- 
verse; and nothing interferes with this 
flow. As in Frances' fantasy (who has 
never been in this space), one feels sus- 
pended and swimming in light. 

The dome, 14 feet in diameter, built of 
a light aluminum frame, almost disap- 
pears under the more visually prominent 
roofing layers of glass and leading, creat- 
ing a surrender of geometric form to the 
form and structure of feeling. The images 
depicted in stained glass are expressions of 
Caroling's experiences and were "accumu- 
lated" in place rather than made part of a 
previously established design. Although 
they represent a past, they seem to be 
alive in the present. As in the human mind 
itself, the accumulation of colored images 
of perceptions and events in the dome's 
surface results in a personal "map." But 
one that is dynamic, filled with events 
depicted outside and beyond their tempo- 
ral, linear sequence. There is no begin- 

*. _- s.miM 



ning, no end, and transitions are almost 
imperceptible in the whole. The satura- 
tion of color is broken here and there by 
areas of clear glass, making the sky-dome 
one with the enclosure and expanding 
one's view. Although the dome is in some 
way an advertisement of Caroling and her 
work (she is a stained glass artist), the 
images do have the capability of com- 
municating experiences and feelings that 
are universally shared by women. 

Both Virginia's and Caroling's spaces 
are centers, imbued with ritual, psychic 
and spiritual qualities. Neither was ac- 
tually built for a utilitarian purpose but 
rather for the more complex and rich 
function of gathering, including others in 
a space that is also intensely personal. 
Therefore, these spaces are neither exclu- 
sively public nor private. They are inclu- 
sive sheltering gestures, gentle contain- 
ments that are as apt to provide a sense of 
inward psychological and physical secu- 
rity as to encourage a release of the mind, 
the spirit, and the senses. 

Frances' Fantasy 

In the fantasy I am already there. I 
came in through a clear glass opening a 
person and a half tall and two people wide, 
shaped like the entrance to an igloo. The 
place I am in is a high rounded space: big, 
airy, the long axis at right angles to the 
entrance like the inside of a patchwork 
zeppelin built of stained glass. When I 
hold my arm out it has different bands of 
color resting on it, and when I move it the 
bands stretch and shrink and slide over 
the skin. It's like being in a warm sea of 
colors or living in a kaleidoscope ... to 
swim, to move slowly exploring the play 
of color and motion. 

When the colored air is too rich and 
the constant change of color gets tire- 
some, a group moves into one of the rest 
spaces — some large, some small — where 
they can stand in the clarity of plain sun- 
light through clear glass, simply them- 

Through the course of a single day the 
patterns shift as the sun moves over the 
space. Both the angles of the beams of 
color and their shapes alter the floor as if 
it were a mosaic of light that was breath- 
ing. Then there are more subtle changes 
from day to day as the sun goes through 
the year, which are only noticeable if you 
suddenly remember what it looked like 
some months before. 

At night, if there is enough moonlight, 
the colors are strange and cool and the 
stars show through in the places where the 
glass is clear. 

Phyllis Birkby practices architecture in Los 
Angeles and Neiv York and has taught at 
several architecture schools. She is currently 
writing a book on the subject of this article. 



Domestic Interiors in Northern New Mexico 

Text and Photos by Jean E. Hess 

"When I entered these homes I always felt embraced by a room, just as I was often embraced by the woman who had invited 
me inside!' 

Nestled among pinon-dotted hills 
overlooking ancestral farmlands 
and the peaceful Rio Chama, 
the rural village of Los Adobes, 
New Mexico, confronts a future promis- 
ing social and cultural change. A forced 
transition from subsistence agriculture to 
wage labor in distant cities has left Los 
Adobes shaken by economic uncertainty 
and social fragmentation. Women here 
are very proud of their homes — one refuge 
in the face of insecurity. 

People construct shelters to mediate 
between themselves and nature and as 
protection from others. Then they (wom- 
en, in particular) arrange house interiors 
to suit everyday life. It is this "everyday- 
ness" of house interiors which, in fact, 
makes them particularly interesting. Yet 
in the study of dwellings and society, 
scholars have in the past emphasized the 
unusual / masculine / monumental / archi- 
tectural, ignoring the everyday/ feminine/ 
vernacular/decorative. 1 Physical architec- 
tural space is slow to change, whereas 
within a house, its "semi-fixed" 2 contents 
are continually changing. 3 Interior ar- 
rangements, the settings for the intricacies 
of everyday life, signal the wide variety of 
choices posed for a group experiencing 
transition; from these choices they select 
only certain elements for a permanent 
place in their culture. 

House interiors are a medium through 
which the women of Los Adobes can ex- 
press both personal and communally 
shared ideals. Eight women from this 
small (population c. 500) Hispanic village 
shared with me insights about domestic 
interior arrangement. These insights sug- 
gest that house interiors are an important 
source of cultural information. 

The Los Adobes interiors are complex 
sign systems which transmit a great deal 
of information about shared norms. It is 
the women of the village who most skill- 
fully "read" the homes of their neighbors, 
interpreting the detailed messages trans- 
mitted by the artifacts and their arrange- 
ment. The women rely on definite aesthet- 
ic criteria in arranging their surroundings: 
their major goal is "beautification." The 
interiors are both appreciated and criti- 
cized by others residing in the home, and 
by persons within the woman's circle of 
friends and kin. In fact, many people con- 
tribute the objects which are combined to 
create an interior. Thus a series of social 
exchanges (decorating ideas, material 
items) are also involved in creating the 
final result. In this regard, house interiors 
are never finished. They are always "be- 
coming." Women add to and subtract 
from their environments so that the house 
is a series of transformations over time. 
Because the house is so mutable, it may 

also serve as a barometer of cultural 
change. Popular themes for house decora- 
tion or arrangement are borrowed from 
the more urban areas of Mexico and the 
United States. Domestic interiors of rural 
New Mexico have changed over the years 
because of this "playing with themes." 
Thus, women serve as editors and in- 
terpreters of cultural change, expressing it 
tangibly within their homes. 

Typically, one woman "speaks" for an 
interior as the chief choreographer of its 
arrangement. The influence of others close 
to her is felt everywhere in fragmentary 
fashion — specific ideas and artifacts re- 
flect an established pattern of sharing. 
Thus Cordelia will say, "I don't get ideas 
from anyone" if she is speaking generally 
about her whole scheme. But if specific 
elements are being discussed, their sources, 
while varied, are actually readily iden- 

If more than one adult woman shares 
a house, compromises must often be made 
to accommodate the tastes of both. The 
older woman usually has final say, unless 
her daughter is the chief breadwinner, in 
which case the interior arrangement be- 
comes a negotiating process. Younger 
women in Los Adobes are an active part 
of the "pool" of workers who travel con- 
siderable distances to Santa Fe or Los Ala- 
mos in order to earn money. And because 

Serape woven by Elsa's cousin. This room 
shows the layered, symmetrical, and decora- 
tive aspects of Los Adobes interior arrange- 

Margaret, in her kitchen, displaying her em- 
broidered tablecloth. 

Detail of Margaret's tablecloth. 


1981 Jean E. Hess 

divorce is becoming as common here as 
elsewhere in the United States, many local 
women find that they are alone and re- 
sponsible for the support of children. 
Irene supports her mother, Lucia, as well 
as her own young son. Although they live 
together in Lucia's home, Lucia has had to 
acquiesce to a blue color scheme in the 
living room because Irene sleeps there and 
blue is her favorite color. In fact, Lucia 
made the blue afghan for Irene's bed. 

Los Adobes homes are rich in the vari- 
ety of items which fill them. Although 
local women identified myriad types of 
interior artifacts, I found that household 
items are either "iconic" (having a mean- 
ing beyond their purpose) or "neutral" 
(necessities such as couches, carpets, cur- 
tains). 4 The icons, which have acquired 
meanings, can be personal, religious, cul- 
tural, gotten through networks of women 
friends, or specifically decorative in na- 
ture. The clue to understanding the layers 
of meaning that the women place on the 
house lies in understanding the icons. 

Although Los Adobes interiors reflect 
a strong pattern of sharing among resident 
women, there are always a few icons 
which the principal decorator feels reflect 
her own taste— her "self." They are the 
things she has purchased selectively, as 
well as those which she has made. Yet in 
all cases a woman's taste is mediated. In 
that sense, icons always reflect, within the 
home, broader ties of reciprocity within a 
woman's network of family and friends. 
Many of the women purchase household 
objects from kin and friends whose spon- 
soring companies (Avon and Tupperware, 
to name two) emphasize sales within per- 
sonal networks. Others buy items made 
by friends or family members. The serape 
in Elsa's interior was woven by her cousin 
in a nearby village. Women also join so- 
cial groups which gather to make craft 
objects (ceramics, embroidered or cro- 
cheted pieces, weavings). Each item's his- 
tory includes details of the social context 
of its purchase or manufacture. A woman 

seems always to be influenced by her kin 
and friends, as well as by commercial in- 
dustries which produce household decora- 
tions or crafts supplies. The ceramic figu- 
rine and teepee ashtray were manufactured 
pieces which Mary painted and then re- 
fired. Margaret embroidered her elaborate 
tablecloth following a published design. 
The influences of U.S. popular culture are 
quite evident in Los Adobes homes. 

Family heirlooms include portraits of 
deceased or distant kinfolk, as well as 
other artifacts handed down through the 
family network. Lucy treasures a quilt 
which her mother made years ago. She 
plans to preserve it by attaching it to a 
new backing in honor of the hours of 
thought and labor involved in its manu- 
facture. Gifts from friends and relatives 
also command a central place in all Los 
Adobes homes. The items clustered on 
Elsa's table— a heart-shaped candy box, a 
votive candle, plants, a miniature grand- 
father clock— were given to her or her _ 
mother on some special occasion. 

Icons representing ties to the greater 
community can also be found in every 
home. A few of the women keep relics of 
"old ways" — wool carders, crockery, cop- 
per pots, pictures of public buildings. 
Some of the more durable of these are dis- 
played, the rest being tucked away for 
safekeeping. In every home there are icons 
of the Catholic faith shared by all persons 
born in Los Adobes. Figurines and pic- 
tures of various saints, including members 
of the Holy Family, abound. Each is ac- 
companied by a detailed story of miracles 
performed. These are heirlooms, gifts, or 
purchases made on pilgrimages to some 
important holy place. Several homes pro- 
vide special niches (nichos) to accommo- 
date the sacred treasures. All of these 
things have a story, weaving threads of 
communal, familial, and personal history 
into an intricately meaningful tapestry. 
Frequently one also encounters a holy fig- 
ure which "circulates" among the house- 
holds of those who belong to a society 

honoring its name. It is in Theresa's house 
one week, Rose's house the next, linking 
their families by its journey around the 

When Los Adobes women discuss their 
homes, they emphasize certain aesthetic 
characteristics of the decorative scheme. 
Color coordination is a fairly new aesthet- 
ic, inspired by home economics courses in 
the public schools, agricultural extension 
classes, and women's magazines read by 
the younger women. Local women typi- 
cally have a color scheme which they fol- 
low for each room. They believe that the 
"neutral" furnishings (couches, curtains, 
etc.) should always match. Women care- 
fully plan the purchase of these larger 
items, leaving little to chance. Against the 
background of an emphasized color 
scheme, touches of brighter color are scat- 
tered. Small bunches of vivid artificial 
flowers often punctuate a room, remind- 
ers of the delicate colcha flowers that in 
the past were embroidered at random on 
bright white altar cloths. Today, bright 
plastic flowers are pinned to the white 
sheets of home altars on feast days, an 
innovative mimicry of the traditional 
colcha cloths. 5 

"Brightness" is a word recurring often 
in the Los Adobes woman's palette of 
ideas. But an article is "bright" and "shin- 
ing" only if it is clean. Women devote as 
much time as possible to dusting, sweep- 
ing, and straightening their homes. When 
they discuss other women in the village, 
approval might be prefaced by the ulti- 
mate compliment a woman can render: 
"Mary keeps a really clean house." Clean- 
liness is not merely precautionary— rath- 
er, it is part of an aesthetic which directs 
housekeeping activities. And this particu- 
lar aesthetic appears to be an established 
tradition. Women say that their mothers 
and grandmothers also kept immaculate 
homes. Cleanliness is a deliberately chosen 
way of life. Cordelia has often remarked, 
while visiting my home: "I can understand 
why you don't keep your house clean. 

Manufactured ceramic figurine and teepee 
ashtray, painted and fired by Mary and ar- 
;: ranged on her TV set. 

Living room with a nicho to accommodate 
religious objects. 

Photographs of family members displayed 
on the TV set. 



You spend your time doing other things. 
But that's how I like to spend my time. It's 
just a matter of personal taste." 

Purely decorative relationships be- 
tween various articles within the domestic 
environment receive quite a lot of atten- 
tion in Los Adobes. Balancing the smaller, 
iconic, decorative elements is most cru- 
cial. Women often purchase or make dec- 
orations in twos or threes so that they can 
be arranged symmetrically. Mary told me 
that she arranged two very different 
plaques on either side of a mirror so her 
living room wall would be "balanced." 
Clusters of objects also prevail in every 
home. These are usually collections of 
small items displayed within a larger one. 
For example, I counted nine whatnot 
shelves in Lucy's living room alone, each 
one filled with small "pretties." Some of 
these were purchased especially to fill the 
shelves. The balancing and clustering of 
objects seem to help control clutter, im- 
posing order on potential chaos. Several 
of the local women say they enjoy collect- 
ing "pretties" — small decorative items. 
Cordelia said: "I like all the little pretties. 
The more there are the better I feel." But 
she orders them in clusters on shelves and 
table tops. 

Clusters are often bounded on larger 
flat surfaces by placing them on crocheted 
doilies or small cloths {mantelitas) embel- 
lished with embroidery or some other 
kind of patterning. This also helps to im- 
pose order on the interior. Furthermore, 
doilies and cloths serve to mediate be- 
tween objects, protecting one object (a 
table or cabinet) from another (a plant or 
lamp). The theme of mediation or protec- 
tion is in turn elaborated into a theme of 
covering. Lacework may cover whole 
shelves, small rugs or serapes cover furni- 
ture which is already upholstered, and a 
larger carpet is protected by smaller ones, 
placed where people are most apt to walk. 

Process is the most striking feature of 
Los Adobes homes. Rooms change over 
time as their contents are rearranged and/ 

or replaced entirely. Elsa removed two 
sconces which she had previously bal- 
anced with care on either side of her por- 
trait because the wall looked "too busy." 
Yet she had lived with the arrangement 
for several years before declaring it un- 
suitable. Furthermore, she put those 
sconces in a safe place "in case I need to 
use them again." 

Rose claims that she has to change her 
house frequently or else she becomes tired 
of it. First of all, she shifts all of her furni- 
ture "just a little" when she cleans; "that 
way I know it's clean!" In fact, any object 
in one place for too long seems "dirty" to 
Rose. In her kitchen she changes curtains 
and tablecloths frequently. She has six 
pairs of kitchen curtains. Rose's mother, 
who has twelve pairs of kitchen curtains, 
changes hers every week. Rose's husband 
complains that their dishes and other 
possessions get broken because she insists 
on shifting the contents of cupboards as 
well. But Rose says: "I stay here all day 
year-round, so I get tired of things. I tell 
Robert he gets to go other places." 

The women change the arrangements 
in response to the seasonal cycle and the 
yearly ritual calendar. Rose has special 
curtains and tablecloths for the Christmas 
season, and special decorations for Christ- 
mas, Easter, Halloween, and Thanks- 
giving. Cordelia moves her couch and 
chairs near the window in summer, and to 
the opposite wall near the colder 
weather. And most women display trin- 
kets or plants on their heaters during the 
warm months, removing them when heat 
is needed. Other changes occur when 
company is expected. All of the women 
have "good" items — doilies, dishes, table- 
cloths — which are brought out for visitors 
and stored in some safe place at other 
times. Elsa and Theresa have also decided 
to save certain good linens and breakable 
decorations until their children are older. 
These are stored in trunks. Later in life 
they will be proudly displayed. Thus the 
basic categories of "good" versus "every- 

day" items are directly related to the mut- 
able nature of Los Adobes interiors. The 
everyday acquires a special, ritual com- 

Editors' Afterword: 
Housework as Architecture 

A conventional view in architecture is 
that the architect is responsible for the 
physical construction of the building and, 
once it is completed, the architect's work 
is finished. Jean Hess's study offers the 
view that the cyclical, domestic, ritual 
housework women have traditionally 
done is also architecture. It states that 
making, decorating, and arranging ob- 
jects within a house is a form of process 
art and should be studied as that. It then 
details women's relationships with the ob- 
jects and the acquired meanings of those 
objects in their houses in a small town in 
New Mexico. 

In Notes on Feminism, Anais Nin 
poses another interpretation of this type 
of work: 

Many of the chores women have accepted 
were ritualistic: they were means of ex- 
pressing love and care and protection. We 
have to find other ways of expressing 
these devotions. We cannot solve the 
problem of freeing ourselves of all chores 
without first understanding why we ac- 
complished them and felt guilty when we 
did not. We have to persuade those we 
love that there are other ways of enriching 
their lives. Part of these occupations were 
compensatory. The home was our only 
kingdom, and it returned many pleasures. 
We were repaid with love and beauty and 
a sense of accomplishment. If we want 
our energy and strength to go into other 
channels, we have to work at a transition- 
al solution which may deprive us of a 

Portraits and plants arranged on a chest. 




Pot holders, plaques, and spoons symmetri- 
cally displayed on a wall. 







personal world altogether. But I also think 
we have to cope with our deep-seated, 
deeply instilled sense of responsibility. 
That means finding a more creative way 
of love and collaboration, of educating 
our children, or caring for a house, and 
we have to convince those we love that 
there are other ways of accomplishing 
these things. 

We are now working toward many 
transitional solutions (as this magazine 
illustrates). As women work outside the 
home in increasing numbers, there are 
fewer women who spend most of their 
energy arranging and rearranging their 
houses. This study supports these wom- 
en in their lives and documents their ac- 
complishments as architects of a style that 
we all recognize in everyday life. The 
women of Los Adobes are representatives 
of an unrecognized hidden culture that 
deserves documentation, or it will be lost 
as the works of other women artists of the 
past have been. 

1. Valerie Jaudon and Joyce Kozloff ("Art 
Hysterical Notions of Progress and Cul- 
ture," Heresies, No. 4 [Winter 19781, pp. 
38-42), have explored our cultural bias 
against women's "decorative" art. Do- 
mestic things have been dismissed as be- 
ing of less analytical value to serious 
scholars than architecture — an arena 
where men typically prevail (see Elizabeth 
Weatherford, "Women's Traditional Ar- 
chitecture," Heresies, No. 2 [May 1977], 
pp. 35-39). Those art historians and crit- 

ics who have recognized the value of 
studying domestic material culture have 
tended to emphasize discrete items such 
as quilts or paintings which happen to be 
by women. They have treated these "do- 
mestic art" objects as separate from a total 
household context. Their emphasis on 
micro-culture may have tended to devalue 
both the research and the subject. The 
most recent of such efforts is: C. Kurt 
Dewhurst, Betty MacDowell and Marsha 
MacDowell, Artists in Aprons: Folk Art 
by American Women (New York: Dut- 
ton, 1979). See also: Patricia Cooper and 
Norma B. Buford, The Quilters: Women 
and Domestic Art (New York: Double- 
day, 1977), and Beverly Gordon, "The 
Fiber of Our Lives," Journal of Popular 
Culture, Vol. 10, No. 3 (1976), pp. 548- 

The only exceptions to the rule men- 
tioned above emerge largely from femi- 
nist art criticism. Patricia Patterson 
"Aran Kitchens, Aran Sweaters," Here- 
sies, No. 4 [ Winter 1978], pp. 89-92) treats 
domestic interior systems as a "legitimate 
art form," contrasting kitchen arrange- 
ments to the pattern of knitted sweaters. 
Lucy Lippard ("Making Something from 
Nothing," Heresies, No. 4 [Winter 1978], 
pp. 62-65) argues in favor of expanding 
accepted criteria of. aesthetic quality to 
include domestic "hobby" art created by 
women. Some attempt at considering 
house interiors as communicative systems 
has been made by social scientists. The 
most successful treatment from this camp 
is by Judith Hansen ("The Proxemics of 
Danish Daily Life," Studies in the Anthro- 
pology of Visual Communication, Vol. 3, 
No. 1 [1976], pp. 52-62). 

2. Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension 
(New York: Anchor Books, 1966), pp 

3. Alan Gowans, "Popular Arts and Histor- 
ic Artifacts: New Principles for Studying 
History in Art," Journal of Popular Cul- 
ture, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1973), pp. 466-483. 
Here Gowans discusses the differences be- 
tween "ephemeral" and "permanent" 
media — media which vary in terms of the 
degree of rapidity with which they 

4. The concept of "iconic" versus "neutral" 
furnishings is my own — Los Adobes 
women do not verbalize such categories. 
Yet when they discuss their homes, local 
women tend to talk at length about those 
things which have a story. They ignore 
the more staple items such as couches, 
rugs, and so forth, after briefly mention- 
ing their cost and the criteria for their 
selection. That is to say, my field notes, 
suggest that Los Adobes women distin- 
guish two basic categories of household 
furnishings even if the distinction is large- 
ly unconscious. 

5. For a description of traditional colcha em- 
broidery in New Mexico, see E. Boyd, 
Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico, 
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico 
Press, 1974). 

Jean Hess has lived in Rio Arriba County, 
New Mexico, for the past three years. In 
addition to studying photography and paint- 
ing, she has done a doctoral dissertation in 
anthropology on women in rural Los Adobes. 

.^•-.•--■-: ■•-.::■ .sM- m 

Serapes cover the furniture and lacework 
mediates between the arranged objects and 
the table. 

Armchair with cloths to protect it 

Plants arranged on a heater during the sum- 
mer. They will be removed in the winter, 
when the heater is in use. 



Women on the Inside 

Divisions of Space in Imperial China 

Nancy Lee Pollock 

A Poem Written on a Floating Red Leaf 

How fast this water flows away! 

Buried in the women's quarters, 

The days pass in idleness. 

Red leaf, I order you — 

Co find someone 

in the world of men.' 

Reeling the despair and degradation 
of her isolated life in the women's 
compartments of the imperial pa- 

. lace, the 9th-century poet Han 

Ts'ui-p'in expressed the common plight of 
most women in feudal China. Deliberately 
and strictly separated from male society, 
a woman's view of the outer world was 
blocked by layers of curtains, screens, 
partitions, walls, and gates. Li Ch'ing- 
chao, the great 12th-century poet, de- 
scribed her sense of isolation through a 
series of architectural images: 

Lonely courtyard, once more slanting 
wind, misty rain, the double-hinged 
door must be shut. . . . 

In my pavilion, cold for days with spring 
chill, the curtains are drawn on all 

I am too weary to lean over the 
balustrade. 2 

Often in poetry by Chinese women, 
the outer world is obscured from view by 
confining architecture. Women are hid- 
den behind barriers: 

Half of the full moon 

Rises above the vermillion balcony. 

The wind blows down from the emerald 

A song like a string of pearls. 
But the singer is invisible 
Hidden behind her embroidered 

curtains. 3 




John Thomson. House of the Official, Yang, Peking, 1871-72. Courtesy of the Collection of 
Samuel Wagstaff, New York. . ,, • ,„,, 

The persistence of tradition in Chinese social structure and architecture is apparent in this Utli- 
century photograph, which reiterates both the form and message of Spring Morning in the Man 
Palace (p 37) The enclosed assembly of women and children on the balconies suggests a life of 
containment within the house. The balustrade appears as the outer boundary of their world. 
Only Yang the official is unobstructed by architectural elements. While the others look at the 
camera, he sits like a powerful guardian of his possessions and gazes into his garden, seeming to 
suggest his connection to the world of action beyond his garden wall. 




^%4fr*s*<~rm : 

Wang Shen (1036-1089), In the Morning, 
Before an Embroidered Dresser. Fan paint- 
ing, ink and color on silk. National Palace 
Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of 

Paintings of male scholars in gardens typi- 
cally included distant mountains or a misty 
abyss, connecting the scholar with the world 
beyond, confirming his intellectual power. 
By contrast, the woman studies her own re- 
flection in a mirror, while behind herapaint- 
ed landscape reveals the outside world from 
which she is cut off. 

The frequently expressed feeling of invisi- 
bility—of being buried deep in the wom- 
en's quarters— evokes an image of women 
on the inside looking out, painfully aware 
of the world of nature as well as men just 
beyond the garden wall. 

While representing confinement and 
seclusion to these women poets, architec- 
tural imagery was used by other poets and 
painters to reflect and reinforce those 
societal values that placed women in the 
inner recesses of the household. Chinese 
scholars have long acknowledged the 
symbolic relationship between landscape 
representation and the virtuous man, 
whereas the association between architec- 
tural enclosure and the ideal woman has 
only begun to be recognized. 4 As much as 
the inner room or enclosed courtyard 
defined the space appropriate to women, 
it also served as a real and symbolic bar- 
rier to their participation in the outer 

The stratified social order which iden- 
tified the ideal woman with interior do- 
mestic space was first formulated by Con- 
fucius (551-479 B.C.) and dominated Chi- 
nese society for most of its history. 5 The 

1981 Nancy Lee Pollock 

basis of Confucian society was the hierar- 
chically organized and well-ordered 
family. Within the family system, woman 
was totally and unconditionally inferior 
to man. The harmony of heaven and 
earth, according to Confucius, depended 
on each individual adhering to his or her 
proper societal role. Involvement by 
women in affairs outside the domestic 
sphere was considered improper conduct 
and was thought to yield negative conse- 
quences for the entire society. A poem 
from the Boole of Songs (Shih Ching), 
which became a Confucian classic, brands 
women who participate in male society as 
the root of countless evils, using architec- 
tural imagery: 

Clever men build cities, Clever women 

topple them. 
Beautiful, these clever women. But they 

are owls, they are kites. 
Women have long tongues, Stairways 

to ruin. 
Disorder is not sent down from Heaven, 

But bred by these women. 1 ' 

Women, in the Confucian order, were 
valued for their reproductive function in 
continuing the husband's family lineage. 
In fact, the desire for assuring clear par- 
entage of the male line was a prime moti- 
vating force for the systematic exclusion 
of women from male society and their 
seclusion within the house. 

Separation of the sexes was supported 
by an architectural style with distinct 
inner and outer apartments for women 
and men. 

The observances of propriety commence 
with a careful attention to the relations 
between husband and wife. They built 
the mansion and its apartments, distin- 
guishing between the exterior and interior 
parts. The men occupied the exterior; the 
women the interior. The mansion was 
deep, and the doors were strong, guarded 
by porter and eunuch. The men did not 
enter the interior; the women did not 
come out into the exterior.'' 

In this division of sexual space, interior 
and exterior are not equal divisions. Rath- 
er, the exterior represents access to the 
entire outer world; the interior means 
closure and seclusion. In the Book of Ritu- 
al the separation of sexual spheres extend- 
ed from the physical division of the house 
to psychological exclusion. 

The men should not speak of what be- 
longs to the inside of the house, nor the 
women of what belongs to the outside. . . . 
Things spoken inside should not go out, 
words spoken outside should not come in." 

Thus divisions of domestic architec- 
tural space reflect Confucian definitions 
of the proper relationships between men 
and women. The plan of the archetypical 

1 _ r 

; ^ : G 

J L 

"I I 



Plan of a Chinese House, drawn by Nigel 

(A) Main Gate, (B) First Courtyard, (C) Cor- 
ner Room, (D) Main Hall, (£) Connecting 
Gallery, (f) Inner Courtyard. (G) Side Room, 
(H) Secondary Building— Living Quarters, 
(I) Outer Wall. 

Chinese house, at least for the middle and 
upper classes, persisted over centuries 
with very little variation except for scale 
and environmental adaptations. Typical- 
ly, the house was bounded by an exterior 
wall and consisted of a series of court- 
yards and buildings placed on a longitu- 
dinal axis (ideally north-south), one be- 
hind the other. The largest and most im- 
portant building was usually placed on 
axis beyond the main gate and first court- 
yard. The exterior wall often incorporat- 
ed side rooms or covered arcades. The 
women's quarters were most often located 
farthest from the street, along the win- 
dowless north or back wall, separated 
from other buildings by courtyards and 
accessible only from the inside. 

The design of the Chinese house made 
concrete the extreme isolation of women 
from life outside advocated by Confucian 
theorists. The image of the ideal Confu- 
cian woman emerges: obedient and sub- 
servient to her husband and his parents, 
producing healthy male offspring, and 
humbly devoting her energies to the inner 
household. Identified by her relationship 
to the architecture which confined her, in 
Chinese she was called nei ren— "the per- 
son on the inside." 9 

Living on the Inside 

In Lessons for Women (Nu-chieh), 
Han historian Pan Chao (mid-lst to early 
2nd century A.D.), one of the few women 
to achieve an elevated position in literary 
and state affairs, described the ancient 
customs regarding the expected roles of 
boys and girls . 10 Three days after her birth, 
a girl is placed on the floor below the bed, 
indicating that she is lowly and weak and 
that her primary duty is subservience. She 
is clothed in swaddling bands and given 
a potsherd to play with, signifying her 

destiny as a laborer. By contrast, the fu- 
ture status of a baby boy is celebrated by 
cradling him on the bed, clothing him in 
robes, and giving him a jade sceptre as a 
toy. 11 The spatial distinctions accorded in- 
fants in the ceremonies at childbirth anti- 
cipated the future roles of each sex; the 
dark, confined space under the bed sym- 
bolizing the inner women's quarters, with 
the light, open space upon the bed repre- 
senting the outside world. 

After age seven, boys and girls were 
given totally different training. Boys were 
taught literature, poetry, music, mathe- 
matics, as well as archery and chariot- 
driving, in preparation for careers in pub- 
lic life. Girls were educated in the arts of 
pleasing speech and manners and trained 
to be docile and obedient. They learned to 
handle hempen fibers, to deal with co- 
coons, and to weave silk; by age ten girls 
ceased to go out from the women's quar- 
ters. 12 

An early voice of outrage against the 
injustice of the family system was the 
scholar-official Fu Hsuan (217-278). In 
the first part of a long poem he wrote: 

Bitter indeed it is to be born a woman, 
It is difficult to imagine anything so low! 
Boys can stand openly at the front gate, 
They are treated like gods as soon as they 

are born. 
Their manly spirit bounded only by 

the Four Seas, 
Ten thousand miles they go, braving 

storm and dust. 
But a girl is reared without joy or love, 
And no one in her family really cares 

for her 
Grown up, she has to hide in the inner 

Cover her head, be afraid to look others 

in the face. 
Arid no one sheds a tear when she is 

married off, 
All ties with her own kin are abruptly 

severed. 11 

From the consolidation of Confucianism 
as a state religion during the Han dynasty 
(206 B.C-220 A.D.) into the 20th cen- 
tury, the pattern of life for women re- 
mained virtually unchanged, although 
there were more or less oppressive peri- 
ods. Confucian theory permeated all 
classes of Chinese society, including the 
peasantry. In the Confucian model, labor 
was divided along sexual lines. Women 
handled textile production, from culti- 
vation of silkworms to weaving intricate 
patterns in silk. Peasant men generally 
worked at agricultural production, al- 
though a great many women also labored 
in the fields. Most literary and visual 
images of lower-class women portrayed 
idealizations of their economic function in 
the Confucian social order. The depriva- 
tion and humiliation facing poor women 



were not generally recognized. Ch'ien 
T'ao (early 11th century), a concubine of 
a Sung dynasty prime minister, affords a 
rare description in her biting comment, 
"Written at a Party Where My Lord Gave 
Away a Thousand Bolts of Silk": 

A bolt of silk for each clear toned song. 
Still these beauties do not think it is 

Little do they know of a weaving girl, 
Sitting cold by her window, 
Endlessly throwing her shuttle to and 

fro. 1 " 

The necessary economic role of lower- 
class women sometimes gave them greater 
mobility than their upper-class counter- 
parts, but in the rigid hierarchichal system 
which held all women in servitude, poor 
women were most certainly at the bottom 
of the social structure. 

The designs of lower-class houses were 
organized for nuclear or small extended 
families without the elaborate sexual 
segregation found in the homes of the 
wealthy. Polygamy and the large inner 
quarters it necessitated were, however, 
cultural aspirations for all. In upper-class 
aristocratic and imperial households, 
wealth and status were measured by the 
size of the women's compartments and the 
number of women acquired for the pleas- 
ure of the male head of the household. 
Each woman had her appointed place in 
the household hierarchy. The First Lady, 
who was principal wife of the father or of 
the eldest son, managed the household 
routine, the education of young children, 
the servants, and ancestral sacrifices. 


Chin T'ing-piao (18th century), Ts'ao Ta-ku 
Writing the "Han Documents. " Hanging 
scroll, ink and color on silk. National Palace 
Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of 

Despite the fact that Pan Chao (Ts'ao Ta-ku) 
worked on the histories in the imperial li- 
brary and conferred on state affairs, the art- 
ist chose to portray the historian in a con- 
fined environment in which women and 
children are segregated from the outer world. 
Although she had gained recognition in male 
society, Pan Chao did not expect her daugh- 
ters to do the same. She wrote Lessons for 
Women for them, advocating traditional 
and separate training for women. 


'"',' ■' ■'" — ' 

5 IK 

Ch'iu Ying (c. 1510-1551), Spring Morning in the Han Palace. Section of handscroll, ink and 
color on silk. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. 
This long handscroll begins at the outer gate of the imperial palace, proceeding through layers 
of walls, balustrades, and courtyards, to an inner series of compounds— the women's quarters. 
Architecture encloses the palace women. Many are partially hidden behind pillars or screens. 
The women are almost all identical. Their images are fragile and flat; their stares, vacant. The 
lack of dimensionality and space between figures conveys an image of woman devoid of per- 
sonality and intellectual depth. With the power to claim personal space denied, there is no self. 
Cloistered together, their chastity guarded by ever-present eunuchs, these women are sexual 
symbols of the wealth and power of the emperor. 

Under her were the other principal wives, 
the secondary wives, the concubines, and 
finally the maids, each answering to the 
next highest rank. 

The plan of the imperial palace was a 
much-enlarged version of the same verti- 
cal organization. Within the women's 
compartments of the imperial palace, the 
emperor could have one empress and over 
one hundred concubines, plus female 
palace attendants, musicians, and danc- 
ers, all of whom were at his disposal sex- 
ually. 15 The empress and imperial concu- 
bines came from noble families and were 
often well-educated. The thousands of 
lower-ranking women usually came from 
poor families and were generally illiterate. 
Those few women in his favor would 
have occasional sexual encounters with 
the emperor. But often, for their entire 
lifetimes, women of the palace saw only 
eunuchs and small boys, resulting in what 
must have been a life of loneliness and 
sexual deprivation. 

The women in these households 
worked, ate, and slept together, relaxed 
and played games together. In the best 
situations they had sympathetic and sup- 
portive relationships with each other. Li 
Ch'ing-chao (1084-1151) wrote longingly 
of friendly competition among women at 
the palace. She ends a poem with a bitter- 

sweet evocation of the transiency of beau- 
ty and the loneliness of old age for women 
no longer attractive to men, women who 
hide themselves behind barriers: 

/ remember the happy days in the lost 

We took our ease in the women's quarters. 
The Feast of Lights was elaborately 

celebrated — 
Golden jewelry, brocaded girdles, 
New sashes, we competed 
To see who was most smartly dressed. 
Now I am withering away, 
Wind blown hair, frosty temples. 
I am embarrassed to go out this evening. 
I prefer to stay beyond the curtains, 
And listen to talk and laughter 
I can no longer share. 16 

The degree of freedom and participa- 
tion in the world outside the house varied 
considerably from dynasty to dynasty. 
The T'ang dynasty (618-906) was a high 
period in creativity, relative mobility, and 
political involvement for Chinese women. 
It was followed by their severe repression 
under the influence of neo-Confucian- 
ism.' 7 The practice of binding women s 
feet began in the 10th century, shortly 
before the establishment of the Sung 
dynasty (960-1280), and persisted well 
into the 20th century. 18 Even more dras- 


tically than architectural barriers, bound 
feet restricted women's movements and 
confined them within the interior recesses 
of the house. Like the images of domestic 
architecture, bound feet came to represent 
ideal womanly modesty and obedience. 
Much has been made of bound feet as 
an erotic enticement, but far more signifi- 
cant were the socially repressive aspects 
of foot-binding. The decline in the status 
of women in the Sung dynasty coincided 
with increased urbanization in China. The 
new concentration of upper classes in 
cities, where the work of women was less 
essential than on country estates, further 
devalued women in upper-class society. 
The institution of concubinage grew rapid- 
ly. The crippling effect of bound feet em- 
phasized the economic uselessness of 
women while promoting the status of the 
man wealthy enough to keep such obvi- 
ously useless, hobbled women. More than 
ever before, women were reduced to being 
the property and baubles of men. 

Painters and poets have created images 
of women in the interior space of the 
household, defined by and identified with 
confining architectural elements. For the 
women poets on the inside attempting to 
look out, architectural barriers were cul- 
tural symbols of their loss of mobility and 
individuality, of their being bound to the 
home and a limited sphere of activity. For 

male artists on the outside, those same 
architectural elements were the setting for 
the ideal subservient, humble, obedient 
woman who knew her place within the 
highly stratified Confucian model. Out of 
both interior and exterior views, a baf- 
fling and painful image emerges— the 
migratory bird, pushed out of her own 
nest and then caged in another. Never at 
home in the house in which she is born 
because she is bred to be sent away, never 
at home in the man's house where she is 
sent, she is one among many anonymous 
women who have been cut off from their 
families and the outside world. All the 
women in the inner quarters are strangers, 
hidden, invisible. The fine interior rooms 
and garden walls of the patriarchal house- 
holds, so beautifully rendered in Chinese 
paintings, meant containment, exclusion, 
and isolation for women of that society. 

Nancy Lee Pollock, an art historian and art- 
ist, has taught at the University of Oregon 
and is currently Chairperson of the Humani- 
ties Department at Northwest School of 
Arts, Humanities and Environment in 

i - l'i if. i [>. , 

l! 1 :ii| 

Anonymous (ca. late 14th century), copy after anonymous Academy painter (ca. 1140). Eighteen 
Songs of a Nomad Flute (Episode 18: Wen-chi Returns Home). Handscroll, ink, color, and gold 
on silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Dillon Fund, 1973. 

That the spatial divisions of Chinese domestic architecture reflected societal organization is evi- 
dent in this depiction of Lady Wen-chi's return to China after 12 years of captivity in Mongolia 
•n the 2nd century A.D. The public street is the domain of men — merchants, peasants, priests, 
and scholars. Within the great house, contact with the public is limited to the outer courtyard, 
the link between interior and exterior environments. Wen-chi and her serving women arrive at 
the first covered verandah to be greeted by women of the household who have waited there. 
The women's space occupies the deeper recesses of the house. This handscroll illustrates the 
architectural ideal, which layered spaces from public to private and delineated the separate 
domains of the sexes. 

1. Han Ts'ui-p'in (9th century). From The 
Orchid Boat: Women Poets of China, 
translated and edited by Kenneth Rex- 
roth and Ling Chung, p. 24. English 
translation copyright © 1972 by Ken- 
neth Rexroth and Ling Chung. Used by 
permission of The Seabury Press, Inc. 

2. Translated by E. Eoyang, in Wu-chi Liu 
and Irving Tucheng Lo, Sunflower 
Splendor: Three Thousand Years of 
Chinese Poetry (New York: Anchor 
Press /Doubleday, 1975), p. 368. 

3. Sun Tao-hsuan (12th century). Trans- 
lated in Rexroth and Chung, p. 51. Used 
by permission of The Seabury Press, Inc. 

4. Such a relationship has been suggested 
in an excellent pioneering work on the 
representation of women by Dr. Esther 
Jacobson-Leong, "Social Order and the 
Definition of Beauty: The Case of the 
Woman in Early Chinese Painting" (un- 
published manuscript). 

5. Confucius wrote: "Women and people 
of lowly station are difficult to deal with. 
If one is too friendly with them they be- 
come obstreperous, and if one keeps 
them at a distance, they become resent- 
ful." See Arthur Waley, The Analects of 
Confucius (London, 1949), Book XVII. 

6. Song #264, translated in Burton Watson, 
Early Chinese Literature (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1962, p. 226. 

7. Li Chi, Book X, Sect. II, 13; translated 
by James Legge in The Sacred Books of 
China: The Texts of Confucianism, Part 
III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1885), 
p. 479. 

8. Li Chi, Book X, Sect. I, 12; Legge, pp. 

9. R. H. Van Gulik, Sexual Life in Ancient 
China (Leiden: Brill, 1961), p. 45. An- 
other possible translation is "person who 
is within." 

10. Nancy Lee Swann, Pan Chao, Foremost 
Woman Scholar of China (London: Cen- 
tury, 1932), p. 83. 

11. The customs are described in the Boofc 
of Songs (Shih Ching), one of the Con- 
fucian classics. Translated in Van Gulik, 
pp. 15-16. 

12. Li Chi, Book X, Sect. II, 32-33; Legge, 
p. 479. Compiled ca. 1st century B.C. 

13. Translated in Van Gulik, pp. 111-112. 

14. Translated in Rexroth and Chung, p. 34. 

15. Van Gulik, pp. 180-192, passim. 

16. Translated in Rexroth and Chung, p. 42. 

17. T'an women were among the greatest 
women poets; they danced and rode 
horseback. In T'ang painting, women 
were depicted with more vitality and 
personal space, despite artistic conven- 
tions, than in any other period. See, for 
example, the works of artist Chou Fang 
and the recently excavated T'ang tomb 
murals in the tomb of Li Hsien. 

18. At age five, a girl's feet were compressed 
by wrapping them with tight bands, 
bending back the big toe and folding the 
four other toes against the sole of the 
foot. Gradually increased pressure bent 
the arch into the permanently deformed 
hooflike tiny foot, with the resultant 
swollen ankle hidden by leggings. For a 
discussion of the practice of footbinding, 
see Van Gulik, pp. 216-222; and How- 
ard Levy, Chinese Footbinding: The His- 
tory of a Curious Erotic Custom (New 
York: Walton Rawls, 1966). 


Housing Histories 

AWay of Understanding the Social and Personal 
Meaning of the Domestic Environment 

Anna Rubbo 

' ouses, like so many aspects of 
our modern society, have be- 
come commodities, objects to 
be negotiated and profited 
from. For those of us involved in architec- 
ture — either as practitioners or as design- 
ers—they are often reduced to aesthetic 
expressions. Yet houses are much more 
than commodities or bearers of architec- 
tural style; they can also be seen as "texts" 
or "stories" through which social and per- 
sonal meaning emerge. The study of 
houses can tell us about relations between 
men and women, classes and races, and 
the past to the present. Through their 
organic connection to life, houses reveal 
the continuous interplay between the 
personal world and society. Just as we 
move through stages in life, relationships, 
and jobs, we move through environments 
(or perceive or arrange environments in a 
new way). Clearly, a "life history" and a 
"housing history" are linked. The value of 
a housing history is that by documenting 
or re-creating a psychosocial/spatial his- 
tory, we can better understand the mean- 
ing of the domestic environment. While 
all this may seem rather obvious, it is an 
intriguing avenue for research about 
women, who have traditionally been so 
tied to domestic space. 

In order to illustrate the possibilities of 
and architectural insights from a housing 
history, I wish to draw on my study of 
housing and settlement patterns in Colom- 
bia, South America. 1 The two texts or 
"stories" are particularly revealing about 
the impact of development on women in 
Latin America. They show the contrasting 
ways in which two women — one a peas- 
ant, the other a day-laborer — responded 
to the "development" of their local society. 

The Setting 

The Cauca Valley in Colombia is an 
immensely fertile valley nestled between 
the central and eastern cordilleras of the 
Andes. Cali is the primary city. In recent 
years the southern part of the valley has 
followed a "development" scenario typi- 
cal for many rural areas of the Third 
World — the transformation of land use 
from small-scale peasant farming based 
on agricultural diversification to large- 
scale monocropping or agribusiness. The 
area is inhabited by Black descendants of 
slaves, who were brought to Colombia to 

work in the gold mines and haciendas of 
the Spanish. When the slaves were freed 
in the mid-19th century they settled as 
peasant farmers and developed a semi- 
subsistence agriculture. They lived in ex- 
tended families in clusters of houses 
around a common patio. Frequently these 
households had femaleJieads, and women 
were landowners and farmers. It would 
only be a slight exaggeration to say that 
this was a matrifocal society. 

As the farm land was bought up by 
plantations in recent decades, these dis- 
persed settlements disappeared and the 
families moved into the rural town of 
Puerto Tejada. Previously, the town had 
been a prosperous market center for peas- 
ant produce, but it soon became a com- 
pany town, housing workers from far and 
near. The population grew rapidly and 
housing demand exceeded supply. With a 
shortage of housing, inadequate sanita- 
tion, and no clean water supply, the town 
became a rural slum. Even so, its bustling 
vitality has always attracted local peas- 
ants and migrants from other parts of 

Sugar cane is the primary crop in the 
Cauca Valley today. As is often the case, 

5 C~-'J' 4 

Woman day-laborer in cane field. 

men are generally preferred as regular 
workers by the plantations. The chief 
source of employment for women is day- 
laboring. Their pay is lower than that of 
regular workers and their incomes un- 
stable. For women who traditionally have 
borne the responsibility for raising their 
families, the impact of such a labor struc- 
ture is obvious. 2 

Sefiora Mina 

Sra. Mina lives on her farm. She is 80 
years old and the mother of 12 children, 
all of whom are living. The farm is not big 
enough to support her now very extensive 
family; and most of them live in the near- 
by town. At present two daughters and 
their families live with her. 

Sra. Mina came to the area in 1922 
with her first companero; they built a 
house on the same site where she now 
lives. This first house was a two-room 
structure of wattle and daublike construc- 
tion, with a detached kitchen. In 1932 she 
met her second husband, and they ex- 
panded the house to accommodate a 
growing family. In 1950 a married daugh- 
ter built herself a house, where she lived 
until she separated from her husband. The 
husband stayed and she returned to the 
town. Later this daughter sold the house 
to a younger brother, who brought his 
wife to live there. Another of Sra. Mina's 
sons built himself a house in 1961, which 
he demolished six years later in order to 
use the materials on a house he was build- 
ing in town. In 1965 the maternal house 
was substantially rebuilt because the fam- 
ily wanted a new house in which to cele- 
brate a wedding. Like all the past con- 
struction, this house was built collectively 
by kinsmen, using thatch and bamboo 
from the farm. Sra. Mina provided food 
and drink for all those who helped. 

Sra. Mina spends many of her daytime 
hours under the verandah, or in the cor- 
redor, as it is called. There she does her 
household chores and minds the young 
children while her daughters work on the 
farm. The corredor faces the patio and as 
neighbors pass through this semi-public 
space she engages them in conversation. 
She has a great affection for the landscape 
and for the trees which have given her a 
living. When the government agronomists 
came by, telling peasants they should re- 
place their perennial coffee and coco trees 

© 1981 Anna Rubbo 


^•**V«^*A*-**-* ' & ' 4 


Female-headed extended family in front of their rural house (note the corredor). 


Stage 1—1922 

Stage 2— 1940s 
(House Enlarged) 

Stage 3— 1960 
(House Rebuilt) 

Roof line of the corredor 


* - /* - / 

Stage 1 

Stage 2 

Stage 3 

Expansion and contraction of a rural home in accordance with the family's developmental cycle. 

with "green revolution" crops such as soy- 
beans or tomatoes, Sra. Mina resisted the 
idea vehemently. 

Over the years her children and their 
offspring have often returned to live on 
the farm for periods of time. This has 
usually happened in times of emergency. 
In the case of one son, he became indebted 
after buying a sewing machine for his wife 
and fell behind with the rent. So he and 
his family returned to the farm for a year. 
In this way the farm has provided a safe 
refuge for family members. 

Permanence, evolution, and positive 
attitudes characterize Sra. Mina's housing 
history. Sra. Rojo's is quite different. 

Sehora Rojo 

Sra. Rojo is 38 years old. Born in the 
jungles of the Pacific Coast, she lived in 
the same house throughout her childhood; 
her family still lives there. At 18 she went 
to the Cauca Valley and found a job as a 
domestic servant in Cali. There she met 
her companero , and in the time they were 
together she had 10 pregnancies. Only 
five children survived and she almost died 
on two occasions. The second time she 
nearly bled to death while lying in the 
dark in her rented room. 

Sra. Rojo has worked intermittently as 
a day-laborer; her companero works as a 
regular employee in the canefields. Sever- 
al years ago he left her for another wom- 
an, but he continued to provide the family 
with some basic necessities. Not strong 
enough to work in the fields every day, 
Sra. Rojo felt her poverty keenly. There 
was not enough food for the children. In 
desperation she sent a letter to a charitable 
radio program, requesting that they find 
jobs as domestic servants for her nine- 
and eleven-year-old daughters. She is illit- 
erate and had someone write the follow- 
ing letter: 

/ am a very poor woman. . . . My husband 
left me with five children. The owner of 
the house came on Sunday and insulted 
me very badly because I owe her four 
months' rent. Two hundred pesos. A sick 
woman like me cannot work. My hus- 
band left when my last child was born and 
he doesn't send enough food. I don't have 
anywhere to sleep. I am in the street with 
my children. 

Perhaps as a result of many years of 
poverty, Sra. Rojo goes "mad" periodical- 
ly. She wanders in the street sadly, talking 
to herself about life on the coast. A year 
ago her companero secured a loan, and 
with some help from her oldest son, they 
bought a two-room house. It had no elec- 
tricity, water, or sewerage, and it was 
subject to flooding. Sra. Rojo, however, 
was delighted with "her" house; she even 
bought some piglets to raise. But despite 
her new-found security, she still suffers 



from occasional madness. During these 
times she becomes obsessed with her 
childhood home where, in her memory, 
harmony existed and food and land were 

Sra. Rojo's oldest son recalls the num- 
ber of times they moved. Before coming 
to Puerto Tejada they lived in 10 different 
rented rooms in the north of the valley. In 
their 10 years in the town they moved 13 
times. Sometimes they fell behind with 
the rent; other times there were problems 
with neighbors or landlords. With one 
house they rented near the canefields, the 
owner stripped the roof tiles from the 
house while Sra. Rojo was at work, be- 
cause she owed two months' rent. In 18 
years the family moved 23 times; rarely 
did they have more than one room and 
they shared kitchen facilities. More often 
than not the houses in which they rented 
rooms had no running water, and some- 
times not even a latrine. 

These two histories dramatically illus- 
trate the environmental conditions of 
peasant and modern life. Both women 
are poor. Yet throughout a 50-year period 
there has been a close correspondence be- 
tween architectural space and the physi- 
cal, social, and psychological needs of 
Sra. Mina and her family. As the family 
grew or contracted, so buildings were 
added or taken away. As social events 
occurred (the wedding, for example), 
buildings were refurbished or modified. 
Sra. Mina's sense of well-being is inti- 
mately and consciously tied to her envi- 
ronment — to her house and the surround- 
ing landscape — and the social relations 
they allow. For her children the family 
farm has been a safe retreat in hard times. 

Apart from her childhood home, and 
more recently her new house, Sra. Rojo 
has had little environmental stability. 
That she craved it is demonstrated in her 
delight with her own house. That she suf- 


V'M : - 



1 « 


Women in front of rented urban home. 

fered from a lack of it is perhaps reflected 
in part in her madness. Unlike Sra. Mina, 
Sra. Rojo could not expand her space as 
her family grew. Many of her environ- 
ments were hostile. They were often damp 
or dark and lacked services. Frequently 
she had personal problems with neigh- 
bors, and she constantly had financial 
problems with landlords. 

Why are these histories important to 
architects and feminists? Perhaps the most 
significant thing about them is that they 
let us enter another world in a way that is 
usually impossible and document lives 
that would be lost to history. They link 
social change, changes in lives, and rela- 
tionships to the environment. They also 
show the relationship of hardship and 
poverty to psychological perceptions of 
the environment, which embodies those 
difficulties. The impact of development is 
personally documented. They give us a 
glimpse into a lived reality which most 
research techniques (especially the quanti- 
tative survey type so commonly used in 
housing studies) cannot. 

If we were planners or architects in a 
developing country, histories such as 
these might indicate ways in which devel- 
opment could be less dehumanizing. They 
could also suggest strategies for the more 
equal integration of women into modern- 
izing societies. 3 

Whether the housing history can serve 
a useful function for us remains to be 
seen. Understanding our most intimate 
environments as texts or stories into 
which social and personal meaning are 
interwoven might simply be an interesting 
voyage. On the other hand, it might lead 
to new ways of ordering and designing 
domestic space. 

1 would like to thank Michael Taussing for 
his helpful comments. Photos by Anna Rub- 
bo and Michael Taussing. 

1. Anna Rubbo, Housing as a Medium for 
Cultural and Political Change: Architec- 
ture and Capitalist Development in a Col- 
ombian Agribusiness Zone (unpublished 
doctoral dissertation, University of Mich- 
igan, 1979). 

2. For a more extended discussion of family 
structure and the impact of development 
on women, see Anna Rubbo, "The Spread 
of Capitalism in Rural Colombia: Effects 
on Poor Women" in Toward an Anthro- 
pology of Women, ed. Rayna Reiter (New 
York: Monthly Review Press, 1975). See 
also Anna Rubbo and Michael Taussig, 
"Up off Their Knees: Servanthood in 
Western Colombia," Michigan Discus- 
sions in Anthropology (Spring 1978). 

3. In recent years numerous development 
projects have been directed at women. In 
her book The Domestication of Women: 
Discrimination in Developing Societies 
(London: Kegan Paul, 1980), Barbara 
Rogers argues that many of these special 
projects impose Western sex-role stereo- 
types on the women and ignore the his- 
torically important economic role of 
women, especially in agricultural produc- 
tion. She contends that these projects, 
focusing on the home, children, crafts, 
etc., effectively relegate women to a 
"domestic ghetto." She insists on the need 
to know women's "real situation" and for 
that to inform planning. 

Anna Rubbo is an architect who trained in 
Australia and the U.S. with a special interest 
in Third World housing. She is Assistant 
Professor in Architecture at the University 
of Michigan. 

Three generations: Sra. Mina with her 
daughter and granddaughter. 



Nan Bauer Maglin 

1 reached under the kitchen table for a 
brown paper bag full of embroidery 
which asked God to Bless Our Home. 
. . .1 kindled a fresh pot of coffee. I 
scrubbed cups and harassed Pallid [her 
ex-husband\ into opening a jar of dam- 
son-plum jam. . . . I made the beds and 
put the aluminum cot away. . . . I did the 
dishes and organized the greedy day; di- 
nosaurs in the morning, park in the 
afternoon, peanut butter in between, 
and at the end of it all, to reward us for 
a week of beans endured, a noble rib 
roast with little onions, dumplings, and 
pink applesauce. ' 

I his is Faith talking, a white, 
Jewish, somewhat middle-class 
New York City mother of the 
1950s, a narrator of Grace Pa- 
ley's stories— stories Faith rightly calls 
"kitchen dramas." Kitchen drama is a 
good term to describe much literature 
written by women. It clearly names the 
home, specifically the kitchen, as the 
locus of meaning and emotion in the 
lives of women. The obsessive identity 
of women with interiors is lodged in the 
history of the word "housewife" — wife 
of the house. Anne Sexton's poem "House- 
wife" portrays this fusion: 

Some women marry houses 
It's another kind of skin; it has a heart 
a mouth a liver and bowel movements 
The walls are permanent and pink 
See how she sits on her knees all day 
faithfully washing herself down. . . 2 

The notion that women are somehow 
born with kitchens as well as wombs, the 
insistence that "by nature" women are 
oriented to interior space is not natural 
but cultural. The development of this per- 
vasive cultural image is tied up in the pri- 
vitization of women's lives, the separation 
of work from the home during the com- 
plex events of industrialization, urbaniza- 
tion, and immigration in the United States 
after the Civil War. One part of this his- 

tory is architectural— the selling of the 
ideal of the private, detached house with 
rooms for separate activities presided 
over by different family members. The 
proselytization of the ideal home and 
women's role as housekeeper was aimed 
at all classes. Through institutions such as 
settlement houses, charity organizations, 
and schools, middle-class women trained 
poorer women in domestic science tech- 
niques and ideology. The intent was to get 
women and children off the streets and 
out of each other's homes into their own 
kitchens — kitchens designed with new 
technology and endowed with emotional 
meaning and moralism. 3 

Dorothy Canfield's novel The Home- 
Maker, written in the early 20th century, 
describes how a woman's . sensibilities 
were shaped into obsessing about and 
within four walls. The heroine, Evange- 
line Knapp, practices Christine Frederick's 
prescriptions for scientific management in 
the home. Evangeline admires the adver- 
tising in the local paper: 

This morning, for instance, as Evangeline 
sipped her coffee, she enjoyed to the last 
word the account of the new kitchen- 
cabinets at the Emporium, and Mrs. Witl- 
ing's little story about the wonderful way 
in which American ingenuity had devel- 
oped kitchen conveniences! Good patri- 
otism, that was, too. She knew that all 
over town women were enjoying it with 
their breakfast and would look around 
their own kitchens to see how they could 
be improved. The kitchenware depart- 
ment would have a good day.* 

I would like to examine the kitchen 
not only as a metaphor and image of 
women's condition but also as an aspect 
of social history. 5 Immigrant and ethnic 
literature can add to a class, cultural, and 
historical perspective on the ideology of 
domesticity. I seek to offer a collage of 
American women's 20th-century literature 
that depicts the power of the kitchen in 
women's lives. The kitchen is simultane- 
ously a prison of drudgery, a place for 
mother-daughter conflict, a space for 
dreams, and a setting for intense connec- 
tions among women from which blooms a 
special female culture. 

I. Kitchen Mothers 
and the Struggle of the Daughters 

Daughters often remember their moth- 
ers by picturing them in the kitchen. That 
memory is laced with guilt and/or anger; 
it is never wholeheartedly warm. The vi- 
sion can be of the mother working inces- 
santly in the kitchen— the exhausted, ner- 
vous, paralyzed mother being destroyed 
by the kitchen. The vision can also be of 
the mother as the kitchen. When Elizabeth 
G. Stern recalls her mother in the autobi- 
ographical book My Mother and I, the 
memory is mixed with guilt and sadness at 
how hard her mother worked, as well as a 
feeling of having been imprisoned by her 
kitchen mother: 

/ can never remember my mother in my 
childhood in any other than one of two 
positions, standing at the stove cooking, 
or sitting in the corner; her foot rocking 
the cradle, and her hands stitching, stitch- 
ing. Mother eked out the family income 
by making aprons— by hand!. . .On rare 
occasions when mother was obliged to 
leave the house she would tie Fanny to 
one leg of the table, and me to the other. 6 

For Elizabeth Stern's family and many 
other immigrant families living in urban 
ghettos in the early 1900s, the dwelling 
unit consisted of one room — a kitchen. 
The Sterns lived in a wet cellar room, par- 
titioned off and rented to many families. 
Elizabeth's mother, father, and two sisters 
lived amid the gas stove and a small as- 
sortment of furniture. When families had 
more than one room, women spent all of 
their time in the kitchen, for it was the 
only place that was heated by a coal or 
wood stove. In the kitchen the working- 
class woman cooked, washed, and ironed 
—hard, endless work. It was also in the 
tenement kitchen that immigrant women 
and their children did "home work" such 
as garment finishing, flower and feather 
making, and similar piecework in order to 
support the family. 7 

The image of the mother as a toiler in 
the kitchen is a recurrent theme in many 
novels and recollections. Polish-American 
poet Esta Seaton writes of her Aunt Reba: 

she was nervous; 
Always scrubbing the walls. 
Scrubbing and scrubbing so 
the walls would shine" 


© 1981 Nan Bauer Maglin 



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New York tenement kitchen, circa 1905. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Community 
Service Society Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. 

In Francine Krasno's recent story "Celia," 
she remembers an angry, crazy, confined 

My earliest memories are of her watching 
helplessly as my father spanked me for 
dancing around the kitchen table. She 
yelled at us during the day when he was 
gone. . . .She refused to clean the house, 
cooked for us grudgingly. . . . I remember 
meals when I choked on resentment, eat- 
ing her misery. . . . My monster mother. I 
longed for the perfect TV Donna Reed 
mother who handed her children bagged 
lunches as she kissed them goodbye and 
waved them out the door. 9 

The rebellion of daughters against 
their mothers and their kitchens is another 
theme, poignantly illustrated in Brown- 
Girl, Brownstones by Paula Marshall. 
Selina, a Barbadian-American teenager 
growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s, 
knows her mother Silla only as a kitchen 
mother who scrubs other women's floors 
for a "few raw-mouth pennies" in order to 
realize her dream of buying a brownstone. 
Selina, wanting freedom, begins her rebel- 
lion by making love to an older bohemian 
man, who ironically lives in a kitchen: 

As he gently unbuttoned her coat and 
sweater, while hands and mouth dis- 
covered her slight breasts and tiny nipples 
formed under his lips, one part of Selina 
thought of her mother. She might be 
awaiting her in the kitchen, the angry 
words building up inside her. 10 

Rachel, in Anzia Yezierska's story 
"Children of Loneliness," reenacts this 

struggle between the mother who is iden- 
tified with the kitchen and the daughter 
who rejects the kitchen. Rachel returns 
from college to her Lower East Side home. 
She insists on the use of a knife and fork 
and is disgusted by her mother's "fried, 
greasy stuff." To her mother, this rejec- 
tion of food represents a rejection of an 
offering from her kitchen-self: 

"How I was hurrying to run by the butch- 
er before everybody else, so as to pick out 
the grandest, fattest piece of brust!" she 
wailed, tears streaming down her face. 
"And I put my hand away from my heart 
and put a whole fresh egg into the lotkes, 
and I stuffed the stove full of coal like a 
millionaire so as to get the lotkes fried so 
nice and brown; and now you give a kick 
on everything I done. . . "" 

Rachel leaves the dinner table and her 
parent's house in a rage. Two weeks later 
she returns to the tenement roof at the air- 
shaft opposite their kitchen window to 
sort out her feelings. Again she is repulsed 
by the "terrible dirt": 

AM what sickening disorder 1 . In the sink 
were the dirty dishes stacked high, un- 
touched, it looked, for days. The table 
still held the remains of the last meal. 
Clothes were strewn about the chairs. The 
bureau drawers were open, and their con- 
tents brimmed over in mad confusion. 17 - 

Rachel feels both guilt and sadness at the 
sight of her aging, withering mother. 
Nevertheless, aware that she will be lone- 
ly, Rachel decides never to enter the kitch- 
en again. 

The struggle of mothers and daughters 
is the conflict between the dreams of the 
young for choice and the reality of wom- 
an's position in society. Selina, in Brown- 
Girl, Brownstones, wants to repeat a jour- 
ney her own mother had made but now 
appears to have forgotten: 

Remember how you used to talk about 
how you left home and came here alone as 
a girl of 18 and was your own woman. I 
used to love hearing that. And that's what 
I want. I want it!" 

The conflict is between two genera- 
tions and represents the tension about role 
definition and self-concept that is lodged 
in the place of the kitchen. The mother, 
kitchen-bound, is blamed for female con- 
finement by the daughter who looks be- 
yond the home to work, to school, to the 
mainstream culture, to be on her own, 
outside. The daughter has no sense of the 
historical and sociopsychological pro- 
cesses that put them both in the same 
position. She does not see men as the real 
keepers of the keys. The daughter merely 
wants to get out, with the escape varying 
according to class, culture, place and 
time. Getting out of the house does not 
always mean freedom: it could mean the 
streets, it could mean working in another 
woman's kitchen, or it could mean having 
one's own kitchen to be wife and mother 

II. Kitchen Dreams 

Women in both fictional and nonfic- 
tional accounts seem inevitably to exist in 
the "private sphere"— the home. It is ironic 
since many women left home for a new 
country and worked outside the home. 
They all seem to have a dream for a better 
life that is translated into a physical space: 
a white kitchen, a new bedroom set, a liv- 
ing room for company. The dream of a 
better home is not to be denigrated, for 
mothers and daughters from immigrant, 
working-class, Black, and Hispanic back- 
grounds did and do live in mean circum- 

Pregnant at 15, Alice, in Nicholasa 
Mohr's contemporary novella about 
Puerto Rican life in the Bronx, dreams 
about getting out of the small room she 
shares with her sister and away from ar- 
guments in the kitchen with her mother. 
A neighbor, Herman, a gay 40-year-old 
Puerto Rican man, finds her weeping in 
the hallway and takes her into his apart- 
ment. The apartment is "nice and new and 
clean" with the "same bedroom set down 
on Third Avenue in the window of Hearn's 
Department Store." 15 Alice marries Her- 
man because he cares about her but also 
to fulfill a wish she has nurtured since her 
first visit to his apartment. "She slept in 
the beautiful bedroom in the comfortable 



Elizabeth Stern writes of the tension 
created between mother and daughter by 
the "miracle" of the American home. 
Stern, while going to school outside the 
ghetto in the early 1900s, discovers the 
living room: 

On a visit to a teacher I was taken into a 
room devoted not to eating, nor sleeping, 
nor cooking. In this room were pictures, 
bric-a-brac, books. There was a piano. It 
was a room, they said, set apart simply to 
'sitting. ' The room was a living room. I 
tried to understand what it would mean to 
have such a room. I could not imagine 
people coming to sit in a house without 
working while they sat. It made 'living' a 
special, separate thing.' 7 

Like Elizabeth, Adele Under (The Ar- 
rogant Beggar, 1927) wants a real home, 
that is, one with "white curtains, red and 
green geraniums," unlike the Essex Street 
home of Mrs. Greenberg, where she 
lodges. This image of the clean white 
room with geraniums is pervasive in the 
literature and was sold to young women 
through schools, media, and institutions 
masquerading as homes. Adele finds her 
answer in a newspaper story about a 
Home for Working Girls, to which she 
eventually moves: 

Here was a real home. A place where a 
girl had a right to breathe and move 
around like a free human being. Every- 
thing I longed for and dreamed of at Mrs. 
Greenberg's was here. Light, air, space, 
enough room to hang my clothes. Even a 
bureau with a mirror to see myself as I 
dressed. But more than a mirror, the 
space to move around. . . . I wanted to 
meet that warmhearted spirit of love who 
thought it all out: Mrs. Hellman, the 
Friend of the Working Girl. '" 

Like the Home for Working Girls, the 
settlement house preached the right and 
better way of living to tired, frazzled 

A New York working girl's home, circa 1897. 
Photographer unknown. Courtesy of the 
Museum of the City of New York. 

women. Poor and immigrant women 
were even sent to model homes as a way 
of making the dream more concrete. To 
the immigrant mother who was about to 
"land in a crazy house or from the win- 
dow jump down" in Yezierska's "Free Va- 
cation House," this model home was a 
grand palace with flowers, trees, and 
comfortable chairs outside. The interior 
really made her breathless: 

/ never yet seen such an order and such a 
cleanliness. From all corners from the 
room the cleanliness was shining like a 
looking-glass. The floor was so white 
scrubbed you could eat on it. You couldn't 
find a speck of dust on nothing, if you 
was looking for it with eyeglasses on." 

This "worn-out" mother found her ghetto 

tenement to be, nonetheless, more of a 

Settlements directed most of their 
efforts toward the children, who proved 
on the whole, to be more teachable than 
the mothers. Hannah Breineh, a character 
in many of Yezierska's stories, exemplifies 
the ghetto mother who reacts against the 
middle-class home. When her children be- 
come successful, Hannah moves in with 
her daughter Fanny, leaving her Lower 
East Side kitchen where everybody "in her 
household cooked and washed in the 
same kitchen, and everybody knew what 
everybody else ate and what everybody 
else wore down to the number of patches 
in their underwear." 20 But Hannah is not 
comfortable in the kitchen of the 84th 
Street brownstone with its "glistening 
porcelain sink and the aluminum pots and 
pans that shone like silver." She can only 
"breathe like a free person ... when the 
girl has her day out," for both the servant 
and her children disdain her manners. 
Embarrassed by this "push-cart mother," 
Fanny finally moves her mother to a fan- 
cy Riverside Drive apartment with a small 
kitchenette and dining service in the 

[Hannah] deprived of her kitchen. . .felt 
robbed of the last reason for her existence. 
Cooking and marketing and puttering bus- 
ily around with pots and pans gave her an 
excuse for living and struggling and bear- 
ing up with her children. The lonely idle- 
ness of Riverside Drive. . .gave her that 
choked sense of being cut off from air, 
from life, from everything warm and 
human. 2 ' 

Cooking class at Christ Church Memorial House, 344 West 36th Street, 1905. Photographer: 
Byron. Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York. 



For Lutie, a Black woman in Ann 
Petry's novel The Street (1948), domestic 
service in 1944 was both a means of mak- 
ing a living and a training ground in mid- 
dle-class life style. Lutie leaves her over- 
crowded home in Queens, where she lives 
with her husband, son, father, and the 
foster children they took in as a source of 
income. She goes to work as a domestic in 
a wealthy Connecticut suburb in order to 
support her family. The kitchen in Mrs. 
Chandler's home seduces and transforms 

The kitchen in Connecticut had changed 
her whole life— that kitchen all tricks and 
white enamel. 11 

The entire house seems like a miracle to 
Lutie: "taken all together it was like some- 
thing in the movies." Lutie's dreams are 
further fueled by magazines such as House 
Beautiful, which Mrs. Chandler hands to 
her unread. A subway advertisement she 
sees completes the dream: 

[It] pictured a girl with incredible blond 
hair. The girl leaned close to a dark-haired 
smiling man in a navy uniform. They 
were standing in front of a kitchen sink— 
a sink whose white porcelain surface 
gleamed under the train lights. The fau- 
cets looked like silver. The linoleum floor 
of the kitchen was a crisp black-and-white 
pattern that pointed up the sparkle of the 
room. Casement windows. Red gerani- 
ums in yellow pots. 23 

While Lutie is working in the Connecticut 
kitchen, her husband finds another wom- 
an. Lutie takes an apartment with her son 
— a dark, small, rundown three-room 
apartment on 116th Street where: 

. . . the sink was battered; and the gas 
stove was a little rusted. The faint smell of 
gas that havered about it suggested a 
slow, incurable leak somewhere in its 
connections. 1 * 

Lutie is left to struggle and dream her way 
up the ladder of success, out of that small 
apartment and off that threatening street. 
The dream of many of these women is 
the clean but still fettered middle-class 
version of the home, fostered by settle- 
ment house education of the "under- 
classes," by popular magazines, and later 
by television. This dream house has a 
room for every function, a kitchen for 
mother or maid, no place for neighbors. 
Continual consumption of furnishings 
and equipment replaces "real" work. 

III. Kitchen Artists 

Without romanticizing the consign- 
ment of women to the private sphere, 
women's literature does show the kitchen 
to be a place where intense positive emo- 
tional interactions occur between women, 
as well as the tense, charged emotions of 

struggle and dreams. Women talk private- 
ly and seriously over the kitchen table, 
using a different language from men. 
Mary, in Nicholasa Mohr's story "Old 
Mary," is a middle-aged Puerto Rican liv- 
ing on the Lower East Side but dreaming 
of a "clean house in a good neighborhood 
on a street where they collect the gar- 
bage." She visits a friend in her kitchen: 

Old Mary sat in the small spotless kitchen 
with Dona Teresa. It had been a slow dif- 
ficult climb up four flights of steps, espe- 
cially on such a hot muggy day. But it was 
worth it to be with her friend. Dona Tere- 
sa had sent Sarita to wash up and do 
chores, so now they could talk privately. 2S 

Maxine Hong Kingston, in her auto- 
biography The Woman Warrrior (1975), 
relates the occasion of her mother's sister, 
Moon Orchid, arriving from China. Her 
mother, Brave Orchid, cooked "enough 
food to cover the dining room and kitchen 
tables." After they had eaten and cleaned 
up, Brave Orchid declares "Now! We 
have to get down to business." The two 
women "sat in the enormous kitchen with 
the butcher's block and two refrigerators" 
and talked while the husband goes to 
sleep. 26 

Pat Steir, in the poem "Kitchens 1970," 
recalls her mother and Aunt Beverly talk- 
ing in the kitchen, their voices: 

coming through the open window 

kitchen. . . 
All summer they drank iced coffee with 

milk in it . 
they sat in their flower-print housedresses 
at the white enamel kitchen table . near 

the window 
sometimes — but rarely laughing . 
endlessly talking about childhood 

friends . operations . 
and abortions . death . and money ." 

Faith, a 42-year-old New York City 
jogger in Grace Paley's story "The Long- 
Distance Runner," returns to the apart- 
ment of her youth in Brighton Beach to 
find Mrs. Liddy, a Black woman, and her 
four children living there. 

The kitchen was the same. The table was 
the enameled table common to our class; 
easy to clean, with wooden undercorners 
for indigent and old cockroaches that 
couldn't make the kitchen sink. {How- 
ever, it was not the same table, because I 
have inherited that one, chips and all.) 18 

Mrs. Liddy hardly ever leaves her home; 
she spends her time washing the babies, 
changing their diapers, washing clothes, 
ironing, feeding people, and sitting by the 
window. Faith stays for three weeks and 
joins Mrs. Liddy in these chores. They 
talk over the kitchen table about food, 
men, and their mamas, even though their 
economic and social positions seemingly 
separate them. 

Women's connections in their private 
spaces are not only those of commisera- 
tion; they often lead to group struggles 
within and without the community. Pa- 
ley's story "Politics" describes mothers 
discussing a fence for the neighborhood 
playground. Eventually they go to the 
Board of Estimate's hearing with demands 
for the fence. Anzia Yezierska's story 
"The Lord Giveth" depicts Hannah Brei- 
neh organizing a collection in the butcher- 
shop for little Rachel and her parents, 
who have been evicted from their dwelling. 

"The Lost Beautifulness" by Yezierska 
shows the rich complexity of drama in the 
private sphere — both the oppression and 
creativity — both the power and powerless- 
ness women have in their kitchens. Han- 
nah Hayyeh works for weeks to redo her 
tenement kitchen into the white dream 
kitchen with red geraniums she first en- 
countered five years before, working in 
Mrs. Preston's kitchen. Mrs. Preston had 
once called her a laundry artist, now Han- 
nah proudly becomes a kitchen artist. Her 
work of art is a gift for her son, who is re- 
turning from the Army. Because she has 
improved the kitchen, her rent is raised 
once and then again. Upon getting a dis- 
possess notice, Hannah and the neighbor- 
ing women gather in the kitchen. They 
cannot prevent the eviction, so on the 
night before she must vacate Hannah 
takes an axe and destroys her creation: 

With savage fury, she seized the chopping 
axe and began to scratch down the paint, 
breaking the plaster on the walls. She tore 
up the floor-boards. She unscrewed the 
gas-jets, turned on the gas full force so 
as to blacken the white-painted ceiling. 
The night through she raged with the 
frenzy of destruction. . . . She looked at her 
dish-closet, once precious, that she had 
scratched and defaced; the up-rooted ger- 
anium box on the window sill; the marred 
walls. . . . For every inch of broken plaster 
there was a scar on her heart. She had des- 
troyed that which had taken her so many 
years of prayer and longing to build up. 19 

Hannah is an artist like the working wom- 
en described by Virginia Woolf who were 
members of the Woman's Co-operative 
Guild and wrote in kitchens "thick with 
steam." 30 Hannah is an artist, like the 
anonymous Black woman Alice Walker 
writes of whose quilt hangs in the Smith- 
sonian— "an artist who left her mark in 
the only materials she could afford and in 
the only medium her position in society 
allowed her to use." 31 

The mother, housewife, and pho- 
tographer in Rosellen Brown's story 
"Good Housekeeping" typifies the contra- 
dictions and creativity women experience 
in the private sphere. The mother of an 
infant, this woman is immersed in the dis- 
order, frenzy, exhaustion, and beauty of 



it all. She attempts to create art out of her 

She put the lens of the camera up so close 
to the baby's rear that she suddenly 
thought. What if he craps on the damn 
thing? But she got the shot, diapered him 
again, lowered the shade, and closed the 
door. Turned the coffee pot so a wan light 
barely struck off the half-shine under the 
accumulated sludge on its side. Held it 
over the toilet bowl tilted so the camera 
wouldn't reflect in the ring of water." 

The mainstream culture's view of 
women posits a choice between either 
total immersion in the kitchen— be it the 
crowded, seemingly warmer one of the 
working class or immigrant culture or the 
empty, sex-segregated, shiny white one of 
the middle class— or total rejection of the 
kitchen. Implicit in rejecting the kitchen 
is embracing the public world valued for 
its individuality, rationality, order, and 
competitiveness. In women's writings 
there is a recognition of the dual nature of 
women's condition— that the orientation 
to interiors has been imposed as well as 
desired but that, nevertheless, from with- 
in that confined space profound relation- 
ships and culture do develop. Perhaps a 
future vision is to be found in Adele Un- 
der, who eventually rejects the dream of a 
middle-class home and leaves the oppres- 
sion of her working-class job as a kitchen 
maid. She returns instead to an Essex 
Street kitchen, embraces the memory of 
her mother in "our old kitchen," and at- 
tempts to build new forms of family and 
community, joining public and private by 
opening a coffee house in the heart of a 

M SSay Was written in m y kitchen under 
an NEH Fellowship. It is part of a larger 
work m progress that deals with the kitchen 
as a potent repository of feelings, attitudes, 
and myths which are expressed in part in lit- 
erature by women. I wish to thank Joan 
Oreenbaum, Dolores Hayden, Jackie Leavitt 
and Jane McGroarty, among many. 

1. Grace Paley, "Used Boy Raisers," in The 
Little Disturbances of Man (New York: 
New American Library, 1973) pp 127 
130, 134. 

2. Anne Sexton, "Housewife," in No More 
Masks!— An Anthology of Poems by 
Women, ed. Florence Howe and Ellen 
Bass (New York: Anchor Books 1973) 
p. 188. 

3. For a discussion of housing, women's 
roles and the ideological inculcation of 
these roles, see such works as: David 
Handlin, "The Detached House in the 
Age of the Object and Beyond," in 
Housing Perspectives, ed. Carol Wedin 
and L. Gertrude Nygren (Minneapolis: 
Burgess, 1976); Gwendolyn Wright, 
"Sweet and Clean: The Domestic Land- 
scape in the Progressive Era," Land- 
scape, Vol. XX (Oct. 1975); Dorothy E. 
Smith, "Household Space and Family 
Organization," Pacific Sociological Re- 
view, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Jan. 1971); Sheila 
de Bretteville, "The Parlorization of Our 
Homes and Ourselves," Chrysalis No 9 
(Fall 1979); Elizabeth Weatherford, 
"Women's Traditional Architecture," 
Heresies, No. 2 (May 1977); Susana 
Torre, Ed., Women in American Archi- 
tecture: A Historic and Contemporary 
Perspective (New York: Whitney Library 
of Design, 1977); Barbara Ehrenreich 
and Deidre English, For Her Own Good: 
150 Years of the Experts' Advice to 
Women (New York: Anchor Press 
1979); Marlene Stem Wortman, "Do- 
mesticating the Nineteenth Century 
American City," Prospects, Vol. Ill 
(1977); Dolores Hayden and Gwendolyn 
Wright, "Architecture and Urban Plan- 
ning-" Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1976). 

4. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Home- 
Maker (New York: Harcourt Brace 
1924), p. 151. 

5. On rooms as metaphors and the image 
of women's condition in literature and 
art, see: Sandra Gilbert and Susan 
Gubar, The MadWoman in the Attic: 
The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth 
Century Literary Imagination (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1979); 
Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their 
Own: British Novelists from Bronte' 
to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton Univer- 
sity Press, 1977); Suzanne Juhasz, 
"Transformations in Feminist Poetry," 
Frontiers, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 1979); 
Lucy R. Lippard, "Centers and Frag- 
ments: Women's Spaces" and Susana 

Torre ,', Tne p y ramicI and the Laby- 
rinth," both in Women in American 
Architecture (New York: Whitney Li- 
brary of Design, 1977). 

6. Elizabeth G. Stern, My Mother and I 
(New York: Macmillan, 1917), p. 21. 

7. The home and work lives of working- 
class immigrant and ethnic women have 
been studied by such people as: Susan 
Weinberg, "Technology and Women's 
Work: The Lives of Working-Class 
Women in Pittsburgh, 1870-1900 " La- 
bor History, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter, 
1976); Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "A Case 
Study of Technological Change: The 
Was hing Machine and the Working 
Wife," in Clio's Consciousness Raised: 

New Perspectives on the History nf 
Women, ed. Mary S. Hartman and \2 
Banner (New York: Harper & Ro °^ 

8. Esta Seaton, "Exploration," in The Ett 
nic American Woman: Problems p r *~ 
tests. Lifestyle, ed. Edith Blicksilver 
(Iowa: Hunt, 1978), p. 63 

9 ' VnT C i in M Kr ??c : ' ." Celia '" Cations 
Vol. 1, No. 3 (Spring 1978), pp. X5/ 17 ' 


10. Paula Marshall, Brown Girl, Brown 
stones (New York: Avon Books 197m 
p. 197. ' U '' 

11. Anzia Yezierska, "Children of Loneli 
ness," in The Open Cage: An Anzia 
Yezierska Collection (New York- Perw= 
Books, 1979), p. 150. ' 

12. Ibid, pp. 154-155. 

13. Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones m 
251-252. ' PP ' 

14. See Helen M. Bannan, "Warrior Wom- 
en: Immigrant Mothers in the Works of 
Their Daughters," Women's Studies 
No. 6 (1979). 

15. Nicholasa Mohr, "Herman and Alice," 
in El Bronx Remembered (New York- 
Harper & Row, 1975), p. 126. 

16. Ibid, p. 129. 

17. Stern, My Mother and I, pp. 98-99. 

18. Anzia Yezierska, Arrogant Beggar (New 
York: Doubleday, 1927), p. 64. 

19. Anzia Yezierska, "The Free Vacation 
House," in Hungry Hearts (New York: 
Grosset & Dunlap, 1920), p. 112. 

20. Anzia Yezierska, "The Fat of the Land," 
in The Open Cage, p. 89. 

21 . Ibid, p. 97. 

22. Ann Petry, The Street (New York: Pyra- 
mid Books, 1976), p. 39. 

23. Ibid, p. 23. 

24. Ibid, p. 16. 

25. Nicholasa Mohr, "Old Mary" in In Nu- 
eva York (New York: Dell, 1977), p. 13. 

26. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman 
Warrior: Memories of a Girlhood 
Among Ghosts (New York': Vintage 
Books, 1976), p. 143. 

27. Pat Steir, "Kitchens 1970," Heresies, 
No. 2 (May 1977), p. 96. 

28. Grace Paley, "The Long Distance Run- 
ner," in Enormous Changes at the Last 
Moment (New York: Dell, 1974), p. 195. 

29. Anzia Yezierska, "The Lost Beautiful- 
ness," in The Open Cage, pp. 121-123. 

30. Virginia Woolf, "Introductory Letter," in 
Life As We Have Known It, by Co- 
operative Working Women, ed. Mar- 
garet Llewlyn Da vies (New York: Nor- 
ton, 1975), p. xxxv. 

31. Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Moth- 
ers' Gardens," Southern Exposure, Vol. 
IV, No. 4, p. 63. 

32. Rosellen Brown, "Good Housekeeping: 
A (Very) Short Story," in Motherlove: 
Stories by Women about Motherhood, 
ed. Stephanie Spinner (New York: Dell, 
1978), pp. 120-121. 

Nan Bauer Maglin teaches at Manhattan 
Community College, CUNY. Her latest arti- 
cle, '"Don't never forget the bridge you 
crossed over on': The Literature of Matri- 
lineage," appears in The Lost Tradition: 
Mothers and Daughters in Literature. 



This conference center in the Sahara Des- 
ert was designed by an international coun- 
cil on cities to combine dialogue on wom- 
en's role in cities with physical work. The 
participants/ residents are urban women 
from many countries. 

The plan derives from the plan of an ideal 
Renaissance city. The large cubes are for 
public functions; the small cubes are indi- 
vidual dwellings. The interior walls are 
covered with decorative pieces woven by 
women from the participating countries. 

Gail Price 

The cubes are made of a wet sand/con- 
crete mixture. If not maintained, the walls 
will return to sand. Each woman main- 
tains her own cube and works with others 
on the large cubes. The repetitive work of 
troweling the structures is called "house- 
work. " 

Gail Price is an architect, cartographer, and 

© 1981 Gail Price 

The First Month: Opening ceremonies and 
symbolic acts of friendship occur during 
the first week. The rest of the time is given 
over to learning each other's languages 
and one common language. The work on 
the cubes is not very difficult, although 
new to the women. The women are friend- 
ly, but also a little afraid. 

The Second Month: The women now 
know each other's languages fairly well, 
but the translation cube is still maintained. 
Although all the cubes/homes are pretty 
much alike, some of the women have be- 
gun to compete to have the "nicest" cube. 
There are intellectual discussions about 
cities, but they are formal and somewhat 

The Third Month: The system begins to 
break down. The weather is now quite 
warm. The work becomes a strain for 
some of the women. The prevailing winds 
from the northeast make it difficult to 
maintain the cubes on that side because of 
drifting sand. The translation cube (on the 
north side) is abandoned. Most of the 
talking has stopped because of the work. 

The Fourth Month: The work is getting 
ahead of the women. The sand continues 
to drift in. Some of the women are worn 
out and have abandoned their cubes. 
Others deliberately break down their 
cubes in frustration. One woman cries 
out, "There is something so terribly wrong 
with all of this." Other women question 
the work and try other solutions. 

The Fifth Month: After a period of depres- 
sion and desolation, the women begin real 
discussions and experiments on how the 
city should function. The large central 
structure is abandoned. Some women 
have already moved in with each other; 
now others begin to link cubes together 
and make new spaces with the wall hang- 
ings, which were originally thought to be 
purely decorative. 

The Sixth Month: There is a celebration. 
The women join some of the wall cloths 
together to form a tent structure, support- 
ed by the forces that tore down the cubes. 
The men who set up the conference return 
for the ritual closing ceremonies and find 
both the women and the city very different. 

*This was a second-year student project 
done in 1975 at the New Jersey School of 


A Place of Birth 

The Changing Structure of Obstetrical Care 

Jan Bishop and Barbara Marks 

uring the past decade the concept 
^of a new form of obstetrical ser- 
vices has emerged — the birth cen- 
ter. The birth center offers an 
alternative to the growing number of 
families who are turning away from the 
sterility of institutional obstetrical care. It 
attempts to retain the social and psycho- 
logical advantages of home delivery, while 
providing medical safety in a non-hospital 

The birth center has developed out of 
a consumer-based movement. During the 
'70s, feminist organizations, such as the 
Boston Women's Health Collective, be- 
came increasingly involved in raising 
women's consciousness of their rights and 
responsibilities in making active choices 
in areas directly affecting their minds and 
bodies. The proliferation of health care 
literature by women for women facilitated 
informed decision-making by a popula- 
tion that had for years been controlled by 
the male medical profession's attitude: 
"We know what is best for you." Armed 
with this new knowledge and self-help 
skills, women and families could now 
responsibly question the impact of insti- 
tutionalized obstetrical care on the physi- 
cal and psychological well-being of them- 
selves and their newborns. It was out of 
this climate — in direct response to the 
family's desire for a more personalized, 
yet safe, childbearing environment — that 
the birth center, with its particular organi- 
zational structure, services, and physical 
facilities, evolved. 

Indeed, the idea of a birth center at- 
tracted the attention of a diverse group of 
women — from expectant mothers to 
nurse-midwives and other health care 
workers to women architects. The birth 
center seemed to offer a virgin landscape 
for the development of a new building 
prototype. How to start a birth center 
became a topic for workshops and semi- 
nars in the '70s. Consumer and provider 
groups, interested in pioneering this al- 
ternative health care concept, came to- 
gether to explore how they could create 
an environment responsive to the commu- 
nity's needs. Financial, legal, and political 
questions were jointly discussed, along 
with the functional and aesthetic aspects 
that should be incorporated in a birth 
center. At the same time, as the number of 
women in architectural schools increased 

female students began to demand that 
architectural education become more 
meaningful to women, particularly by 
paying attention to the needs of women as 
a user group. The concept of a birth center 
fed into these concerns and thus became 
the subject of architectural studio projects 
in many schools across the country. 

The Contrast: Hospital 
versus Birth Center 

To envision the potential of the birth 
center, one might begin by picturing the 
failings in current hospital delivery ser- 
vices. The design of most hospital obstet- 
rical units is based on a traditional medi- 
cal model, in which pregnancy becomes a 
"disease" demanding the care of a physi- 
cian and complex technology. This is true 
despite widespread documentation that 
childbirth is a normal physiological proc- 
ess that follows a natural, uncomplicated 
course in the majority of childbearing 
women. In other words, institutional ob- 
stetrical care is focused on the needs of an 
estimated five to ten percent of the child- 
bearing population considered "at risk" 
and in need of specialized support staff, 
drugs, and high-technology equipment. 

The planning of obstetrical units has 
typically grown out of the needs and de- 
sires of obstetrical department heads. As 
both the obstetrical and architectural pro- 
fessions have been dominated by men, 
input from women professionals has been 
minimal. Moreover, at no point has input 
been solicited from the consumer popula- 
tion using the facility — childbearing wom- 
en and their families. 

The obstetrical unit itself is only the 
place for delivery; it is not integrated into 
the overall care and preparation for child- 
birth. Prenatal care and parenting educa- 
tion often occur in facilities at some dis- 
tance, both physically and psychological- 
ly, from the maternity ward. While most 
hospitals routinely provide tours of the 
obstetrical facilities, familiarity with the 
complex quarters cannot be gained within 
the time frame of a tour. 

The efficient control of obstetrical 
patients is commonly achieved through a 
complex maze of spaces, located within 
the pathogenic context of an acute care 
facility. Traditionally, obstetrical units 
consist of three separate components: the 

labor and delivery suite, the newborn 
nursery, and the postpartum nursing unit. 
Ideally the three are located in a contigu- 
ous relationship, but sometimes they may 
even be on different floors. 

In most hospitals rigid and volumi- 
nous policies control the "patient" and 
family from the moment they walk into 
the admitting office. The patient is rou- 
tinely confined to a wheelchair to begin a 
long journey that gradually takes over the 
natural physiological functions of child- 
bearing. The patient and her family are 
escorted through anonymous corridors 
and elevators to the labor and delivery 
suite. The father, or other support-person, 
is directed to a family waiting room, but 
is usually allowed to join the patient in the 
labor room. 

At the point of imminent delivery the 
patient is wheeled on a stretcher to the re- 
stricted, sterile delivery room. Again most 
hospitals allow the father to accompany 
the patient if a normal delivery is antici- 
pated. Following delivery, the infant is 
quickly removed from the parents to the 
nursery for observation, while the mother 
is taken on a stretcher to the recovery 
room. The father is commonly sent back 
to the waiting room until the mother is 
transferred to the postpartum unit. 

The mother must then wait out the 
average three- to five-day postpartum 
stay, dependent on nursing staff and hos- 
pital policy for the frequency with which 
her infant is transported back and forth 
from the newborn nursery. Although 
some hospitals have flexible rooming-in 
policies for mother and infant, common 
deterrents cited are insufficient space in 
patient rooms and the increased staffing 
required by decentralized nursery care. 
Also dependent on hospital policy is other 
family members' access to the mother and 
infant. Not until discharge from the hos- 
pital is the new family truly united and in 
a position to control the decisions affect- 
ing the well-being of their family unit. 

Now let us look at the contrasting pic- 
ture of a birth center, which offers com- 
prehensive and personal maternity care at 
a considerably reduced cost. In terms of 
medical safety, birth centers are staffed by 
certified nurse-midwives, consulting phy- 
sicians, and other ancillary medical pro- 
fessionals. Women are carefully screened 
for potential complications during preg- 


© 1981 Jan Bishop, Barbara Marks 

Birth center designed 
by Barbara Marks. 

nancy or delivery and only "low-risk" 
mothers, who anticipate normal child- 
birth, are accepted. If complications do 
arise, the childbearing woman and mid- 
wife can be transferred to the local back- 
up hospital. 

At the birth center childbearing wom- 
en and their families routinely attend 
educational classes and prenatal examina- 
tions. A support-person selected by the 
pregnant woman — most often the father- 
to-be — is a critical member of the health 
care team and participates in all phases of 
pregnancy. By the time the woman and 
her support-person are ready for delivery, 
the birth center is already a familiar part 
of their environment, as classrooms and 
examination rooms are usually contiguous 
to the birthing area. 

One typical design for the birthing 
area itself shows a birthing suite (consist- 
ing of a bedroom and a private family 
living room), as well as kitchen facilities 
and a general lounge. The structure is set 
up for one to feel at home, with freedom 
to move around. The expectant mother, 
along with her family and friends, can 

comfortably progress together through 
the stages of labor. Adjacent to the family 
living room is the bedroom — so the moth- 
er has the choice of being alone or with 
family and friends. There the nurse- 
midwife and support-person assist the 
childbearing woman during the birth 
process. One design possibility is a door 
of heavy wood, enhancing the sense of 
privacy (if the mother wants to scream 
she can then do this without disturbing 

Following birth, ■ the new family re- 
mains in the birthing suite to celebrate, 
rest, and unite. Typically discharge from 
the birth center occurs within 8 to 12 
hours after birth, with follow-up phone 
calls and home visits by the birth center 
staff during the early postpartum days. 
Return visits to the birth center for well- 
baby and well-woman care are common 
aftercare procedures. 

To date, all birth centers have entailed 
adaptive reuse of existing structures— 
from residential to office-type buildings. 
Smallness of scale and homelike qualities 
have been emphasized, with a major con- 

cern being the provision of an environ- 
ment that is an extension of known ex- 
periences. In contrast to the controlling 
atmosphere of the hospital, a sense of 
freedom and flexibility is integral to the 
design of all birth centers. 

The Political Battle 

Birth centers represent an exciting op- 
portunity for innovative architectural ex- 
pression. But a note of warning must be 
sounded for those who unwittingly think 
that the only major barrier to the con- 
struction of community birth centers is 
the absence of a suitable design concept. 
The viability of the birth center, as an ap- 
propriate and acceptable mode of health 
care delivery, is seriously being threatened 
by its institutional counterpart — the or- 
ganized medical profession. 

Rather than viewing birth centers as 
an additive component to the health care 
network — a reasonable alternative for 
low-risk childbirth — medical profession- 
als have begun to rally against what they 
see as a competitive threat to their prac- 










^ - pi^,.. 




Photo by S.Chernoff© 1977. 

tice. Fearful of a lower birth rate and thus 
a dwindling patient load, both hospitals 
and physicians have spurred opposition 
to the continuing' development of birth 
centers. Lobbying efforts are being direct- 
ed at the regional and state agencies re- 
sponsible for approving new health care 
facilities. Their contention is that all births 
should occur in a hospital, under the di- 
rect supervision of a physician. In some 
areas the medical profession has direct- 
ed its effort at curtailing the practice of 
nurse-midwives — the primary caregivers 
in birth centers. A recent communication 
circulated among physicians in a state- 
wide lobbying effort warned obstetricians 
to remember their motto: illigetimus non 
corborundum (don't let the bastards wear 
you down). 

Very few states have established the 
licensing categories and reimbursement 
mechanisms that are necessary prerequi- 
sites for birth centers to operate as health 
care facilities and to achieve financial via- 
bility. Third-party payers, such as insur- 
ance carriers or Medicaid, have also been 
slow to negotiate reimbursement contracts 
for birth centers, although cost savings 

are in excess of 50 percent when compared 
with the institutional obstetrical care that 
is currently reimbursed. 

Yet the outlook is not entirely bleak. 
Many birth centers have successfully bat- 
tled and won, paving the way for follow- 
ers. Indeed, the need to overcome the 
various political, legal, and economic 
hurdles may have a positive effect on the 
planning and design process within the 
architectural profession. In most states, 
licensing and construction codes, which 
dictate functional space requirements, do 
not exist for the building category of birth 
centers. Initiatives from the architectural 
community can help to develop these 

The struggle to make birth centers a 
reality is thus much more than the trans- 
lation of a new design concept into a phy- 
sical form. The deinstitutionalization of 
obstetrical care has involved a complex 
process of change: it is the shift in power 
and control and the change in the services 
demanded that finally place us in a posi- 
tion to alter the physical facility. The 
process of these changes must be under- 
stood and utilized in designing new birth 

centers. We must assure that the process 
that has begun— creating environments 
that are responsive to the needs and de- 
sires of those who use them — is not 

By working collectively with caregiv- 
ers and consumers in all of the develop- 
mental steps of a birth center, the plan- 
ning and design process should ultimately 
bring about a physical form that is truly 
representative of the birth center concept 
— where the informed participation of the 
childbearing family in the events and de- 
cisions that affect their lives remains a 
constant objective. 

Jan Bishop, an architect and health planner, 
has worked for the Health Systems Agency. 
She has written a hospital manual on the im- 
plementation of family-centered maternity 

Barbara Marks is an architect -working m 



Home as Symbolic Form 

Like the city, the home is one of cul- 
ture's most powerful symbolic forms. It 
embodies specific, usually dominant, 
ideologies about how people should live, 
what kinds of values and hierarchies 
should be fostered within the family, and 
how its occupants should relate to the 
public world. Historically, the image, 
form, and structure of housing have been 
used by both rulers and reformers to rein- 
force their beliefs. We can thus understand 
why, just as at the turn of the century, 
feminists today are attempting to create 
their own home images to promote the 
idea of a non-sexist egalitarian society. 

The switch from one version of the 
ideal home to another does not happen 
simply because one image has been made 
more appealing through mass media pro- 
motion or becomes acceptable under the 
standards set for middle-class achieve- 
ment. For an image to become a symbolic 
form, a number of related social, econom- 
ic, and cultural factors must coalesce and 
the image must account, in some basic, 
clear, and univocal way, for all of them. 
Catherine Beecher's American Woman's 
Home prototype of 1869 is such a sym- 
bolic form. It is an isolated object in a 
privately owned plot, reminiscent of a 
picture-book church and schoolhouse 
meshed together. Its open plan, divided 
by movable screens and closets has the 
kitchen as its physical and symbolic cen- 
ter. At the time Beecher's domestic proto- 
type responded to a multitude of vari- 
ables: increasing industrialization with 
the emergence of a more affluent but ser- 
vantless middle class; renewed efforts to 
uphold Victorian values in a changing 
society through a moral emphasis on reli- 
gious belief and sexual division of labor; 
the growing influence of pseudo-scientific, 
managerial theories about domestic life; 
and a perceived need to both rationalize 
and idealize woman's role within the home 
by promulgating the view that it was her 
duty and her calling to act as spiritual 
minister and efficient manager of the 
household, to be self-sufficient, and, like 
her home, to stand proud in isolation. 

A symbolic form is not visionary; it 
represents the progressive synthesis of di- 
verse conditions experienced by the ma- 
jority of a social group. The power of a 
symbolic form resides in its articulation 
and formalization of a cultural model that 
will allow these conditions {qua ideology) 
to endure beyond their time and to shape 
the consciousness of future generations. 

The House of Meanings (1970-72) 

The creation of a symbolic form is 
only possible through successive approxi- 
mations. This project, designed between 
1970 and 1972, is an attempt in that direc- 
tion. The House of Meanings is intended 

■ _ .:•..'. -'.. .,_!;. 

Kjir&'syt ■.:■■■.: 

Susano Torre 

to respond to demands for growth and 
transformation, a premise which con- 
tinues to be valid, especially in the context 
of the current needs of working women 
and their families. Perhaps it is not an ac- 
cident that the clients for the different 
versions shown here were women. Pos- 
sibly they found in the ideal of the project 
many affinities with the changing patterns 
of their own lives. 

The House of Meanings is not a speci- 
fic house. Rather, it uses the principle of 
space as matrix. A matrix space is a crit- 
ique of the traditional division of space 
into enclosed rooms which, in their size 
and location within the house, establish a 
rigid hierarchy of importance among cer- 
tain members of the household. It is also a 
critique of the usual distinction between 
enclosed rooms for private activities and 
corridors for circulation — a spatial setup 
originally designed to separate household 
members from their hired servants. Today, 
this spatial form perpetuates a sharp sepa- 




!:■ .' 

ration between private spaces for personal 
withdrawal and those for togetherness. In 
contrast, the matrix space assumes a 
breakdown of the conventional distinc- 
tion between private and public, individ- 
ual and shared, proposing an interaction 
between opposites. 

A matrix space is also a critique of the 
open plan, with its lack of differentiation 
and hierarchy. When an open plan is used 
for a shared personal dwelling, power and 
submission often become the means to re- 
solve priorities in competing uses. 

The matrix space of the House of 
Meanings aims to achieve both spatial 
continuity and spatial hierarchy. To visu- 
alize this idea, one must conceive not a 
single-level plan but multiple plans, show- 
ing how the space is divided at different 
heights. One can then see that it is possi- 
ble to achieve seemingly opposite objec- 
tives: open/enclosed, isolated/connected, 
low/high, small/large, intimate/monu- 

© 1981 Susana Torre 


The second principle of the House of 
Meanings is the creation of multifunctional 
spaces. When rooms are dimensioned for 
a single function (such as a bedroom or 
living room), the potential furniture lay- 
out is already embedded in the room's size 
and proportions. However close the no- 
tion of multifunctionality may be to the 
way people actually live, it is contradicted 
by present housing standards and is al- 
most unachievable in multiple dwellings. 
One might compare this to the way cur- 
rent zoning requirements in suburbia 
make it illegal to establish shared service 
structures across property lines or to open 
a small store or a child-care center in a 
residential district. Segregation of func- 
tions and the single use of spaces promote 
unwholesome isolation between private, 
shared, and public life. 

The third principle is the combination 
of the formal integrity and completeness 
of an architectural object with the chang- 
ing and temporary patterns that arise in 
the process of dwelling. Most people pre- 
fer to live in dwellings that can be trans- 
formed and added to. The formal logic of 
vernacular architecture encompasses 
adaptability and change, whereas the for- 
mal logic of Architecture as art inevitably 
implies a closed, self-referential condition. 
In the House of Meanings the tension be- 
tween and integration of Architecture and 
Dwelling occurs by juxtaposing a matrix 
of fixed walls with a matrix of spatial inci- 
dents. The wall, in Western architecture, 
is the primary architectural element. It 
distinguishes between inside and outside; 
it creates a boundary and a support for 
shelter. According to psychohistorians of 
the built environment, the wall is associ- 
ated in the Western unconscious with the 
memory of the mother. In sources ranging 
from nursery rhymes (Humpty Dumpty 
and his fall) to literary works, films, and 
the visual arts, the wall has dual connota- 
tions of enclosure and protection, as well 
as separation and denial. The wall matrix 
of the House of Meanings is open-ended. 
As will be seen in the actual projects, a 
physical wall does not always exist where 
one might seem indicated. Sometimes the 
walls simply suggest a potential space to 
be occupied. 

Although the two versions presented 
here are for single houses sheltering a 
shared, collective life, it should be evident 
that the spatial matrix is like the tissue of 
vernacular housing. As such, it is capable 
of creating connections in all directions 
while allowing for physical distance and 
formal differentiation; it can thus encom- 
pass other dwellings within it. The ulti- 
mate form of each house cannot be known, 
for it always exists in a "present" state of 
completion, capable of being altered — in a 
state of equipoise between permanence 
and change, art and life. 

This version was designed for a writer 
who is often visited for long periods by 
friends and by her two grown children. 
The location is a low hill facing the ocean 
in northern Puerto Rico. The living arcade 
(under the darker roof) is a space with in- 
formal furniture groupings. Each private 
room, proportioned and dimensioned for 
multiple and interchangeable use, can be 
partially or completely opened to the liv- 
ing arcade, allowing the extension of col- 
lective activities into the private realm if 

so desired. The two joined pavilions be- 
hind the main house serve as the living 
quarters of the children and guests. The 
trellised space, covered with vines, defines 
outdoor rooms where hammocks may be 
placed. Only two rooms deny the con- 
tinuity of the living spatial matrix: an en- 
closed courtyard and a skylit room facing 
the ocean. While responding to a conven- 
tional sense of privacy, understood as 
withdrawal, these spaces allow intense 
contact with others. The total covered 
area is approximately 1,200 square feet. 


«; o' ^'*C-'®^Sfefr 

This version was designed for an ex- 
tended family in Santo Domingo, consist- 
ing of a couple and the wife's mother and 
younger sister. Because their lives are both 
joined and separate, the private rooms of 
each household have been paired at oppo- 
site ends of the house. The main connect- 
ing space is a series of three rooms in a zig- 
zag pattern, which can be divided in many 
different ways by large sliding doors. The 
two rooms closest to each pair of private 
rooms are mostly used as the living rooms 
of each household. The middle space, 
open to the large kitchen, is for eating and 
serves as the principal gathering place for 
everyone in the house. Should two gather- 
ings take place simultaneously, this room 
can be closed off from the kitchen, where 
there is space for another table for six. 
The covered gallery is another connecting 




space: one living room, the kitchen, and a 
private room open into it. The rooms can 
be extended into the gallery, which itself 
can be expanded into the backyard. The 
structure and laundry yard to the right of 
the car entrance can become the starting 
place for future additions once the young- 
er sister establishes her own separate, but 
connected, household. At present, the 
structure is used by the mother, who is a 
seamstress, as her workshop and office. 
The total covered area is approximately 
1,400 square feet. 

Susana Torre, an architect and author, is 
Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia 
University Graduate School of Architecture 
and Planning. She received an NEA grant to 
design housing prototypes for changing fam- 



The Passing of the Home i 
American Cities 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This article originally appeared in Cosmo- 
politan (December 1904). Gilman's in- 
cisive analysis is as fresh and astonishing 
today as it must have been at the turn of 
the century. With the exception of some 
minor editing, we have reprinted Gilman's 
article intact. 

' e in America, springing to 
life as a nation in our pio- 
neer period, with our first 
proud ideals all based on the 
facts of that period, and dominated by a 
literature deeply colored by those same 
facts and ideals, are slow to recognize our 
own growth. 

When we say "the American home," 
we think instinctively of the home of a 
hundred years ago; and a hundred years 
in this age of cumulative progress means 
more than a thousand in the far past. Our 
national life is changing in every feature, 
changing more swiftly than any people's 
life ever changed before; and in most of its 
phenomena we are proud of it. The dis- 
tinctive spirit of American progress is 
its sure and instant recognition of new 
values, new methods, new lines of ad- 
vance, and its steady courage in taking 
advantage of 'them. . . . 

And yet, in the very face of this rush- 
ing current of progressiveness, we find at 
times the strangest pools and eddies, dull 
backwaters where the driftwood of past 
seasons floats and molders like wrecks in 
the Sargasso Sea. It is from a stagnant 
stretch like this that we hear the cry of 
complaint and warning about the passing 
of the American home. ... It is because we 
think, in our honest hearts, that our na- 
tional integrity and health and virtue are 
bound up in "the Home," and that if it is 
taken from us we are lost. ...We are 
wrong in supposing that change is neces- 
sarily injury, in seeking to maintain the 
home in some past form and forbid it shar- 
ing in the benefits of progress. But while 
we are musing, the fire burns, the changes 
go on; and those who observe them cry 
out as the old Danish king cried out 
against the rising tide. 

In the country there has been less 
change than in the city, naturally; the iso- 
lated farmhouse is still recognizably like 

its predecessors of the earlier centuries; 
yet there is some difference even here. In 
the cities, notably in our largest ones, the 
alteration is so great and swift as to force 
itself upon us with something of a shock, 
the more so as in a growing city one may 
find every stage of home building prac- 
tically side by side. 

A ride on the Amsterdam Avenue 
streetcar in New York City will show the 
shanty and hovel of the ancient poor, and 
the crowded tenement of the modern 
poor; the large, comfortable, detached 
house of the ancient rich, with lawn and 
garden and outbuildings, and the long 
fronts of the side-street blocks where the 
"homes" stand like books on a shelf, 
squeezed out of all semblance of a house. 
This is due to the terrible constriction of 
financial pressure. This pressure, relent- 
lessly increasing, has forced upward from 
these level ranks of crowded dwellings the 
vertical outburst of the apartment home 
— the "flat," and at this point begins most 
of the outcry. 

So long as our homes had twenty feet 
square of ground in the backyard, and 
ten feet of stone steps at the front door, 
we submitted to the lateral pressure un- 
complainingly. We took our air and light 
at the two ends of the house; we ignored 
the neighbor whose bed was within a foot 
of ours, because the party-wall was solid 
and well deadened. We called our vertical 
slice of a solid building a block long "a 
house," and while lamenting at times its 
lack of physical comfort, we did not feel 
that its life was attacked. It was still "the 

But the apartment houses increased so 
rapidly that levels of domestic life in New 
York became as varied as its rocky sub- 
strata; and then, under the same pressure, 
the kitchens were squeezed out of the 
flats, and the apartment hotel appeared. 
. . .Now indeed, a cry of horror goes up. 
We have all along had in our curtained 
minds an ideal of the home of our grand- 
mothers; the slow compression of that 
ideal as the city block congealed around it 
we had not noticed; but now that we see 
our homes lifted clean off the ground— 
yardless, cellarless, stairless, even kitchen- 
less — we protest that this is not a home! . . . 

The tendency in terms of brick and 
mortar is clearly visible. It is from a rela- 
tively small, plain, isolated house, hold- 
ing one family, toward a vast glittering 
palace of a thousand occupants. The ten- 
dency industrially is as clear; it is from the 
weary housewife making soap and can- 
dles, carding, spinning, weaving, dyeing, 
cutting, sewing, cooking, nursing, sweep- 
ing, washing and all the rest, to the hand- 
some, healthy, golf-playing woman who 
does none of these things (and, to her 
shame be it spoken, does little else), for 
her former trades are done each and all by 
expert professionals. 

The tendency in the character of home 
and family life is not so patently visible, 
but may yet be traced. It is from a self- 
centered family life, mainly content with 
its own members and its immediate neigh- 
bors, to a family that is by no means con- 
tent with its own members, that knows 
not neighbors though they be as near and 
numerous as the cells of a honeycomb, 
and that insists on finding its interests and 
pleasures in the great outside world. 

That this change, psychic and indus- 
trial, is going on with the change in archi- 
tecture, cannot be denied. It may even be 
wondered if it did not precede it— spirit 
rightly coming before matter; at any rate, 
it is here. Now let us examine the real 
nature of this transformation, without 
prejudice or terror, and see if it is, after 
all, as bad as some would have us be- 
lieve. . . . 

For health and comfort, so long as air 
and light are assured, rooms on one floor 
are better than on five— better mechanics, 
better economy of space and time. .' . .Of 
what do dwellers in flats most complain7 
The smell of their neighbors' kitchens, the 
noise of their neighbors' children. So long 
as that smell and that noise were dissemi- 
nated freely from the exposed farmhouse, 
we none of us minded them. So long as, 
by common consent, the dwellers in the 
book shelf tucked their kitchens in behind 
and under, mingling the odors of suds and 
soup in the huddle of backyards which 
every resident ignored; sent their children 
to the top floor— or the park— and polite- 
ly overlooked the ash barrel and the gar- 
bage can immodestly obtruding them- 



selves beside the elegant front steps, so 
long we bore with these things. But when 
the strata rose under lateral pressure and 
carried the home upward, by the dozen, 
its constituent chambers thrown together 
past ignoring, and with no backyard to 
dilute its odors for a while, then we found 
that we did not like our own way of doing 

A little more squeezing— the kitchen 
dwindles and cramps to a kitchenette — 
pop! it is gone! The dining room, lost 
without its feeder, suffers a gradual trans- 
formation to a sort of second parlor, and 
often it, too, disappears. The children? 
The apartment house and the hotel evade 
that question — avoid it — dodge it. They 
make no provision for children — they 
don't want any. The children are but few 
in these sky palaces, and they look out of 
place. We have not faced the problem of 
providing for them at all. We shirk it. 

And then what happens? What does 
the family do? The man goes right on with 
his business as he always did. His bills are 
heavy, but there is less worry. He works 
and pays the freight. The woman, relieved 
of almost all the work she used to do, and 
too ignorant, too timid, too self-indulgent, 
to do other work, simply plays most of 
the time, or labors at amusement, salving 
her conscience with charity. . . .The chil- 
dren, when there are any, are seen dully 
toddling beside unresponsive servants, 
strapped helpless in wagons; aimlessly 
playing in the only decent place they 
have, the public parks; or, in their only 
semblance of free life, taking the license 
and education of the streets. . . . 

The apartment hotel meets a demand. 
The position of children is the most prom- 
inent evil; yet it is not so much worse than 
it was before, as it is merely more con- 
spicuous. The apartment hotel only car- 
ries out in arrogant and opulent fulfillment 
the tendencies already at work when the 
city began to force the homes together 
and crush them to a lean and breathless 

Is this movement wholly bad? Can 
nothing be done to check it? It is by no 
means wholly bad; it is mostly good. 
What is bad about it is our misapprehen- 
sion, and pig-headed insistence on what 
we falsely suppose to be valuable things. 
How then can we modify this process, 
keeping the grandeur and beauty, the 
smooth, delicate mechanical adjustment, 
the care and convenience, and yet keeping 
love and peace and happy childhood too? 
Our present objectors have no help to 
give — they merely howl. They stand 
screaming in the road and say; "Go back! 
Go back! This is not the way. Stop! Go 
back!" Social processes do not stop, much 
less go back, for anybody's protest. They 
cannot be arrested or reversed, but they 
can be steered. We can study them, learn 
their lines of direction, and take advan- 
tage of them, to our great gain. Now let us 
see what is needed to make "the American 
city home," in its best and fullest sense, 
possible to us still, albeit two hundred feet 
from the ground. 

There is no real reason that a man and 
wife should not be as happy under electric 
lights as they were underneath the naked 
stars, on oriental rugs as on the windy 

hills or damp leaves of the forest. There is 
no real reason why children should not be 
as healthy and happy in a modern palace 
as in an ancient hut. No real reason, no 
inherent reason. The difficulty in these 
things is secondary and removable. We 
have overlooked the children in building 
the apartment home — that is all. 

We are meeting all adult desires in 
these huge palaces today. We make for 
them billiard parlors, smoking rooms, 
dancing halls, swimming tanks, reception 
parlors — but we do not build for the chil- 
dren. This is not the special fault of the 
apartment house. We did not build pri- 
vate houses suited to them either. 

What we want is conscientious recog- 
nition of child needs when we build 
homes; and this should be insisted on by 
their mothers. Now heretofore the moth- 
ers were too overwhelmed with house ser- 
vice to demand anything for their children 
or themselves. As soon as a husband was 
rich enough to harness other women to 
his chariot wheels, the mother emerged 
from her lowly labors, and, like any other 
released servant, luxuriated in idleness. 
Low-grade labor does not teach noble 

But this very apartment house, with 
its inevitable dismissal of the kitchen, 
with its facility for all skilled specialist 
labor, has freed the woman from her 
ancient service, so that she may now see 
the splendid possibilities of motherhood. 
She does not do so yet, it is true. The 
kitchen-mindedness of a thousand centu- 
ries cannot rise at once to the grade of 
twentieth-century life. But see what we 


;-;-—-• .... , 

A large kitchen in an apartment hotel. 







might have if we would in this most 
crowded city of the world today; see how 
the American home may pass from its 
present transition stage to a noble new 

On the ground space of a New York 
block, with our present architecture and 
mechanical knowledge, we can build 
homes of such exquisite refinement and 
simple beauty as should be a constant rest 
and joy to their inmates. Once eliminating 
that source of so much dirt, the kitchen, 
the system of exhaust sweeping now com- 
ing into use, with modern plumbing, 
could keep our homes cleaner than they 
ever were before. Wise building laws 
should insure ventilation and sunlight for 
rich as well as poor. 

Long corridors, gliding elevators, soft 
music at one's meals — these things do not 
destroy love and happiness; nor does a 
private cook insure them. Our mistake is 
in attaching the essential good of home 
life to nonessential mechanical conditions. 

This uneasy expansion from home life 
into "society life" is in its nature good — 
bad as are the present results. It is part of 
the general kindling of the human soul 
today, the wakening of the social con- 
sciousness. It is right, quite right, that 
man, woman, and child should all de- 
mand someting more than "home life." 

The domestic period, so to speak, is 
long outgrown. The wrong is that the 
social life they find outside is so pitifully 
unsatisfying. The soul today needs far 
wider acquaintance, more general inter- 
est, more collective action, than the soul 
of remote centuries. We are different — we 

are more complex — and we must continue 
to become so. 

But that complexity should be as clean 
and natural and wholesome as our early 
simplicity. .. .If these apartment houses 
and hotels were filled with people who 
appreciated the opportunities of the time 
they live in, the gathered homes therein 
would know a larger, higher happiness 
than any cozy cottage under a woodbine. 
The wives and mothers of these families 
would remember that there are children — 
must be children — and that no hired ser- 
vant can successfully conceal them. Chil- 
dren are here and must be provided for. 
The apartment house has not done so yet 
— but it can, and better than the private 
house. These great structures could, if 
they chose, turn their palm-fringed roofs 
into happy child-gardens, furnish great 
playrooms, gymnasia, and nurseries; and 
they will choose when women patrons 
bring their maternal sentiments up to 
date. A busy woman, happy and proud in 
her work, could return to her exquisite 
nest in one of these glorious palaces, with 
her husband and children returning from 
their work and play, to as contented a 
home life as the world has ever known — 
and a nobler one as well. 

But you say: "It is not the same thing. 
The home is gone. The children are at 
nursery or kindergarten, the father away, 
of course — he always was; but the mother 
— a woman should give her whole life to 
the home." No, she should not. No human 
being should. She should serve society as 
does her human mate, and they, together, 
should go home to rest. 

It is this change in the heart of the 
world which is changing the house of the 
world; and its ultimate meaning is good. 
Let us then study, understand, and help to 
hasten this passing onward to better things 
of our beloved American Home. Let us 
not be afraid, but lead the world in larger 

Charlotte Perkins Gitman (1860-1935) was 
an author, lecturer, and political activist. 
Her Women and Economics (1898) advanced 
the idea that only through financial inde- 
pendence would women gain liberation. In 
1909 she began to publish the Forerunner, a 
feminist monthly. In 1915 she co-founded 
the Women's Peace Party. 





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: ■ • *if ■•«&' 

. <r t*< 

[ .yi 

Typical cafe — an attractive and convenient feature of apartment hotel life. 



The Feminist Paradise Palace 

Dolores Hayden 

slender, dark-haired woman, 
with a light, penetrating voice 
and great powers as a speak- 
er, Charlotte Perkins Gilman 
charmed audiences in the last decade of 
the 19th century in New York and in 
Topeka, in Kansas City and in London. 
Her most popular lectures discussed wom- 
en, men, and the home. Although her 
eyes flashed with anger or indignation 
when she spoke of women's oppression, 
she could quickly change pace, joking, 
prodding, ridiculing traditionalists who 
romanticized the Victorian home and 
woman's place within it: 

It is not that women are really smaller- 
minded, weaker-minded, more timid and 
vacillating; but that whosoever, man or 
woman, lives always in a small dark 
place, is always guarded, protected, di- 
rected and restrained, will become inevit- 
ably narrowed and weakened by it. The 
woman is narrowed by the home and the 
man is narrowed by the woman. 

In her first book, Women and Eco- 
nomics, published in 1898, and in many 
subsequent books and articles, Gilman 
prophesied a world where women enjoyed 
the economic independence of work out- 
side the home for wages and savored the 
social benefits of life with their families in 
private kitchenless houses or kitchenless 
apartments connected to central kitchens, 
dining rooms, and day-care centers. On 
the basis of her economic, social, and 
architectural arguments for collective 
domestic life, she has been judged the 
most original feminist the United States 
has ever produced, and she has been de- 
scribed by various scholars as represent- 
ing "the full elaboration of the feminist 
impulse" and as putting forward "radical" 
proposals based on "socialist" premises. 
Yet in many ways her program was a 
somewhat conservative synthesis of earli- 
er material feminist ideas with popular 

theories of social evolution. Rather than 
arguing that evolution would help to free 
women, Gilman contended that free 
women could help to speed up evolution. 
In Women and Economics she stated that 
women were holding back human evolu- 
tion because of their confinement to 
household work and motherhood. The 
evolution of the human race, she believed, 
would be hastened by removing domestic 
work and childcare from the home, allow- 
ing women to undertake both mother- 
hood and paid employment, making it 
possible for all women to be economically 
independent of men. Thus, she argued 
that the development of socialized domes- 
tic work and new domestic environments 
should be seen as promoting the evolution 
of socialism, rather than following it. This 
was her original contribution. 

One of several attempts to build such 
new domestic environments was under- 
taken by a New York group, the Feminist 
Alliance, in 1914 and 1915. Henrietta 
Rodman, active in New York feminist and 
socialist circles, was the founder of the 
Feminist Alliance. Rodman had been in- 
volved in many trade union struggles in 
New York and had won recognition for 
her drive to organize public schoolteach- 
ers. In addition to attempting to have 
women admitted to law and medical 
schools, the Feminist Alliance won a cam- 
paign for maternity leaves for teachers 
(previously New York's Board of Educa- 
tion had fired teachers who became 

The most ambitious of their projects 
was the Feminist Apartment Hotel. In 
1906 Gilman had written: 

We have so arranged life, that a man may 
have a home and family, love, compan- 
ionship, domesticity, and fatherhood, yet 
remain an active citizen of age and coun- 
try. We have so arranged life, on the other 
hand, that a woman must "choose"; must 

either live alone, unloved, uncompanied, 
uncared for, homeless, childless, with her 
work in the world for sole consolation; or 
give up all world-service for the joys of 
love, motherhood, and domestic service. 

Rodman and the other members of the 
Feminist Alliance were determined to re- 
arrange home life so that women could 
combine a career and marriage success- 
fully, by creating a new kind of housing. 

The group hired Max G. Heidelberg, a 
radical New York architect, to design a 
12-story building on a site near Greenwich 
Village, including kitchenless apartments, 
collective housekeeping facilities, and a 
roof-top nursery school. The building of 
about 400 rooms, divided into 170 one- to 
four-room suites, required half a million 
dollars capital. The Alliance's project was 
to be controlled by its residents and to 
provide day-care for the children of em- 
ployed women, thus recognizing that 
family and paid work for women were 
not incompatible activities. 

Rodman believed that Alva Belmont 
and other wealthy investors would guar- 
antee most of the capital. Belmont had 
come to feminism late in her life but was a 
heavy contributor to suffrage causes, the 
Women's Trade Union League, and Max 
Eastman's socialist magazine The Masses. 
Most important, she had been a flamboy- 
ant patron of architecture in her earlier 
days as a reigning society matron. Richard 
Morris Hunt had built her a three-million- 
dollar pseudo-French chateau at Fifth Ave- 
nue and Fifty-Second Street in 1881, a 
two-million-dollar "cottage" in Newport 
in 1892, and another estate in Sands 
Point, Long Island. To Rodman she ap- 
peared a likely supporter for this feminist 
architectural enterprise. 

In addition to $480,000 from wealthy 
patrons, the organizers hoped to raise one 
year's rent in advance from the residents, 


© 1981 Dolores Hayden 

"If there should be built and opened in any of our large cities to-day a commodious and well-served apartment house for 
professional women with families , it would be filled at oncer —Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1898 

the rather small sum of $20,000. Single 
women could live in the building as well 
as married women with their children and 
husbands; all resident parents, male and 
female, were expected to help with child- 
care. Rodman said: "I maintain that every 
child has a right to a real father, one who 
has sufficient leisure to take a real inter- 
est in his children." However, she did not 
assign any other domestic duties to men. 
She planned for the building to be staffed 
by "trained help from the domestic science 
departments of the high schools," work- 
ing eight-hour days, so that the resident 
career women would be freed from chores. 
Thus the pressures forcing women to 
choose between marriage and a career 
would disappear: 

Imagine Dr. Katherine B. Davis chained 
down to household drudgery. Or imagine 
Inez Millholland Boissevian becoming a 
dishwasher for life! Heretofore many such 
women have had to give up marrying al- 
together in order to obtain their freedom. 
We hold that it isn't necessary: that all 
that is necessary is to make a home with 
all the household drudgery out of it. 

Heidelberg, who chaired the Feminist 
Alliance's Committee on the Socialization 
of the Primitive Industries of Women, 
made some attempt to eliminate domestic 
drudgery through design. There would be 
no wallpaper and no picture moldings. 
All corners would be rounded, all bath- 
tubs would be built in, all windows would 
pivot, all beds would fold into the walls, 
and all hardware would be dull-finished. 
Of course, the women with high school 
training in domestic science would still be 
cleaning inside the built-in bathtubs, if 
not under them, and washing the pivoting 

While the planning progressed, the 
project was criticized from outside as a 

"feminist paradise palace" by Laura Fay- 
Smith, writing in the New York Times. 
Fay-Smith sneered at feminism and railed 
at women who refused the "responsibili- 
ties" of motherhood. A militant anti- 
feminist, she argued that if nature had in- 
tended women to be feminists, then wom- 
en of the future would be square-shoul- 
dered, flat-chested, and equipped with 
"large feet on which to stand their 
ground." They would be born with "mon- 
ey as their only standard of value." Fay- 
Smith asserted that true women know 
their place is at home, as mothers, be- 
cause this was what nature had ordered. 
She fired a parting complaint: "The femi- 
nist wants to hire other women to do what 
she ought to do herself; she wants to climb 
on the shoulders of the women whose 
hard necessity compels them to be paid 
servants." In her portrayal of conflict 
between women as employers and em- 
ployees, Fay-Smith did identify a problem 
that the feminist organizers could not re- 
solve: how to escape from stereotypes 
about "women's" work without exploiting 
women of a lower economic class. 

The debate which followed Fay- 
Smith's article, however, centered on 
whether or not a feminist apartment hotel 
promoted or destroyed "natural" mother- 
hood for middle-class women. No critic 
picked up on Rodman's scrutiny of "natu- 
ral" fatherhood, and asked what "real 
men" ought to do around the house. No 
one extended Fay-Smith's criticism to ask 
how "professional" domestic workers 
could also be mothers. No one asked how 
the professional women who were sup- 
porting themselves and their children 
could survive without their jobs. In the 
last rounds of the debate, the editors of 
the New York Times actually agreed with 
the Feminist Alliance's assertion that re- 
moving housework from the house was 
desirable, but the editors reproved the 
activists for mixing up this technological 

and social advance with feminism, "what- 
ever that may be," and thereby "making a 
difficult problem harder." 

Ultimately the alliance between elder- 
ly, wealthy women interested in suffrage 
and philanthropy and younger women 
and men who were cultural radicals, 
socialists, and feminists broke down. 
"Motherhood" had been the point of pub- 
lic attack, but the unresolved problems of 
domestic service versus domestic coopera- 
tion caused the group's internal disagree- 
ments. The struggle to unite socialism and 
feminism was at a very early stage. Femi- 
nists with capital who could afford the 
new physical environment for collective 
domestic work never thought of volun- 
tarily sharing that domestic work them- 
selves. Men and women with socialist 
sympathies who defended the Feminist 
Alliance's project in The Masses had no 
analysis of the conflicts of either gender or 
economic class involved in reorganizing 
domestic work. Not one feminist woman 
nor one socialist man in Rodman's group 
(with the possible exception of her hus- 
band) wanted to do any domestic work. 
Talk as they might about the dignity of 
labor, or about creating good jobs for 
well-trained workers, no one wanted to 
be a well-trained domestic worker. Every- 
one wanted to pay someone else to do this 
job, but they were never prepared to pay 
more than they earned themselves as writ- 
ers, or teachers, or white-collar workers. 
The inability of Gilman's followers to 
build the Feminist Apartment Hotel did 
not affect Gilman's own career very much. 
She had already moved from writing 
political polemics to Utopian fiction, the 
genre of the 1890s at which she was par- 
ticularly adept. What Diantha Did (1909- 
1910) was succeeded by Moving the 
Mountain (1911). A final Utopia, Herland 
(1915), depicted economically independ- 
ent, wise, and athletic women in an egali- 
tarian society with marvelous architec- 



ture and landscape architecture, a society 
without men. Women and Economics was 
still considered a "bible" by college wom- 
en, and many women's groups around the 
country were attempting to put some of 
Gilman's ideas into practice, with the es- 
tablishment of community dining clubs 
and, especially, cooked food delivery ser- 
vices, rather than more expensive apart- 
ment hotels. 

Like her many predecessors interested 
in linking feminist ideology and housing 
design, including Melusina Fay Peirce and 
Marie Stevens Howland, Gilman had 
identified economic independence for 
women as the real basis for lasting equali- 
ty between men and women. Like them, 
she had argued that the physical environ- 
ment must change if women were to enjoy 
this economic independence. But despite 
basic agreement among many domestic 
reformers on these issues between 1870 
and 1900, no single reformer, before Gil- 
man, had been able to speak to a very 
broad range of supporters. Only she was 
able to make the dream seem so tangible, 
so sensible, so extraordinarily realizable 
to people of common sense and good will, 
that tens of thousands of people began 
really to believe in new kinds of American 

Although the dream was broad, the 
experiment was narrow. The failure of her 
disciples to create a viable experiment in 
New York may be traced to Gilman's 
optimistic rather than realistic view of 
women's employment patterns. By 1910, 
25 percent of all women were employed, 
and 10 percent of all married women. 
Gilman's hoped-for constituency of pro- 
fessional mothers was to be drawn from 
this 10 percent. But she organized against 
the odds: in 1910 only 12 percent of all 

employed women were professionals, 
while 40 percent were still domestic ser- 
vants. Professionals who were also moth- 
ers were an infinitesimal group compared 
with single professionals, or with domes- 
tic servants and factory operatives who 
were mothers. True, the professionals 
were increasing their numbers dramati- 
cally, and the married ones among them 
represented the fondest hopes of a new 
generation of educated women who did 
not wish to sacrifice their careers for 
motherhood. However, they were the ex- 
ceptional women of their time. The house- 
wife who did not work for wages was still 
the typical married woman, and the ma- 
jority of professional women did not 

A second obstacle to success was Gil- 
man's and Rodman's choice of the expen- 
sive apartment hotel, with its commercial 
services, as the setting for feminist moth- 
erhood. This created difficulties for the 
Socialist Party women, who found that 
Gilman's program left them without suit- 
able tactics for organizing servants and 
housewives. Gilman depended on female 
professionals and female capitalists to 
lead the way. Not only did she reject class 
conflict, which the Socialists knew how to 
analyze, but she also rejected housewives' 
economic struggle and argued that house- 
wives did not perform productive labor in 
the Marxist sense. Although she had the 
best analysis of feminist motherhood yet 
developed, she failed to convey to Social- 
ist Party women the full force of earlier 
feminist arguments about the economic 
value of unpaid or low-paid domestic 

Gilman did aid Socialist Party women 
to fight cultural conservatives within the 
party, such as John Spargo, who argued 

that housework was a woman's job 
Spargo had a particular hatred for femi- 
nist proposals for collective living, stating 
that "A glorified Waldorf Astoria is in- 
ferior to a simple cottage with a garden." 
But Gilman merely helped Socialist wom- 
en to defend a feminist critique of the 
private home, not to take this further into 
a socialist feminist plan for action among 
domestic workers. 

Gilman's great contribution to the 
feminist and socialist movement of her 
day was a powerful critique of "the iso- 
lated home" and "the sordid shop," of "a 
world torn and dissevered by the selfish 
production of one sex and the selfish con- 
sumption of the other." Accompanying 
this critique was her remarkably vivid 
presentation of another, more humane, 
social and physical environment — the 
feminist apartment hotel suitable for femi- 
nist motherhood. 

Although Henrietta Rodman and her 
colleagues in the Feminist Alliance never 
built Gilman's feminist apartment hotel, 
the history of their unsuccessful attempt 
to find a constituency for a "feminist par- 
adise palace" provides a cautionary tale 
for modern feminist architects who would 
like to transform the private homes in 
capitalist society. Domestic work must be 
reorganized equitably, in terms of both 
class and gender, before the domestic 
workplaces can be redesigned. 

"This brief extract is from Dolores Hayden's 
new book The Grand Domestic Revolution: 
A History of Feminist Designs for American 
Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cam- 
bridge: MIT Press, 1981). 

Dolores Hayden, an architectural historian, 
is Associate Professor of Urban Planning at 








Joan Greenbaum 

The kitchen is the most important room in 
the home forme. I guess I feel comfortable 
here and other people do too. It's more in- 
formal. I like the aroma and the idea that 
people can find me here or that 1 can find 
others when I need them. It's a social 
space. Did you ever notice how easy it is 
for people to talk when they are cooking 
or cleaning up after a party? 

I hate the idea of having to produce meals 
on schedule. You know how it gets when 
the kids are hungry and everybody needs 
something at the same time. Sometimes it 
can be pure chaos and there I am in the 
midst of it dreaming about the beautifully 
clean kitchens they show on TV. Why is it 
that they always show sparkling clean 
kitchens and push ads at us to make us 
compare ourselves with such perfection? 

' hese two statements, by the same 
woman, indicate the strong but am- 
bivalent ties between women and 
kitchens. The contradictions and 
confusion this woman voices are com- 
mon, for the kitchen is a space which 
stands on the threshold of the public and 
private spheres. There is no clear line of 

Over the course of this century the 
home, with the kitchen at its center, has 
changed a great deal. Like the work world, 
it has become more regimented, more 
routine, more codified. Since the turn of 
the century women have heard calls for 

efficiency and cleanliness issued by out- 
side "experts" and have shaped their kitch- 
ens accordingly. 1 Yet, to an amazing ex- 
tent, the more personal aspects of family 
life, particularly the values placed on nur- 
ture and friendship, have stayed and made 
a permanent home for themselves in the 

If we look at the kitchen as a crucible 
of change, we can see aspects of the larger 
. society intensified in its heat. Social rela- 
tions have been molded to fit the needs of 
monopoly capital. In the work world we 
see clock-oriented efficiency determining 
the way workers relate to one another. 2 
As workers are pressed into a routine, 
their social contacts become less personal. 
Within the home women's activities both 
comply with and defy the social relations 
dictated by capitalism. While the layout 
of the kitchen has been rearranged to pro- 
mote more "efficient" home operations, 
the relationships that take place within it 
still carry elements from a more personal, 
pre-capitalist society. Despite their isola- 
tion within private households, women 
have had a powerful impact on social 
values, in particular on the way we relate 
to each other. It is for this reason that 
women's relationship to the kitchen, the 
emotional center of the home, has become 
the target of much outside manipulation. 
A dominant feature of kitchen design 
has been its separation from the rest of the 
house as an isolated unit. While recent 

trends have reintegrated the kitchen with- 
in the home, the concept of one kitchen 
per household still influences design. The 
physical size of the kitchen has also 
changed, shrinking and swelling several 
times during this century in proportion to 
the activities rooted there. Focusing on 
form, we can point to the disappearance 
and reappearance of the big kitchen table, 
the decline and fall of pantry walls, the 
march of counter space as it enveloped 
work areas, the emergence of streamlined 
appliances. And parallel to the alterations 
of the physical space, we see transforma- 
tions affecting the activities within the 
kitchen: woman's role shifted from pro- 
ducer to consumer; women entered and 
were ushered out of the labor force only 
to reenter again; family size decreased; 
household composition was redefined; 
servants vanished and men made their 
presence felt. 

In viewing these changes, we see a 
rather clear pattern emerge. As woman's 
role shifted from producer to consumer, 
the home was brought into the money- 
based economy. 3 Women are now expect- 
ed to purchase most of what they former- 
ly made. Everything from bread to com- 
plete meals is sold as a commodity, making 
the family more dependent on waged in- 
come. Even the kitchen itself has become 
a commodity as cabinets, appliances, and 
"design packages" are marketed to fulfill 
the dream of the "perfect" kitchen. 

p^3B>— <ffi|E2SS^ 


: — 

i ■ 

1; :;:::. ■ 


One foot square module 
Kitchen table 

Turn of the Century: A Woman's Place . . . 

She was verging on a break-down. He volunteered to help get breakfasts and supper, but 
when he found how poorly organized the kitchen was he had to buy her a kitchen cabinet 
to organize the food storage [advertisement for McDougall cabinets, 1919]. 

For the first two decades of this century, the cast iron stove and large kitchen table 
dominated the kitchen, as they had for years before. As the ugly duckling of the private 
home, the kitchen was kept under the stairs or tucked away in the corner. 

By the First World War, kitchen design was beginning to change. The stove shrunk in 
size and became easier to use. Servants looked for and found less demanding and demean- 
ing labor. Housewives, encouraged by the suffrage movement, claimed more freedom in 
daily actions and began to move out of the kitchen into the world. 

But the swing toward liberating women from the kitchen was slowed by a deluge of 
social prescriptions decrying the demise of the family and stressing the need for women to 
stay at home. Women's magazines campaigned; "experts" spoke out; and domestic science 
literature, the forerunner of home economics, took workplace efficiency measures and 
clamped them to the home. The home was to be the bastion of family life, the kitchen its 
command center, and the woman its sergeant. The large wooden table remained literally 
at the center of women's activities. 

© 1981 Joan Greenbaum 





'6 6 
o o 

II---:-; , 





The Twenties: The Family That Eats Together. . . 

The large old-fashioned kitchen with its singing kettle and purring cat is disappearing. It i s 
no longer a family sitting room and general workshop. The kitchen is shrinking in size. 
This is significant. We all recognize that many old time crafts once carried on there are 
now only a memory, and that much of the actual cooking has gone to the factory and the 
food shop [Good Housekeeping, 1925\. 

In the 1920s the white enamel kitchen table sat squarely in the middle of the room. There 
it served as a work surface before the age of counter tops. Around it moved the woman of 
the house who, according to the women's magazines of the day, was anxious to learn 
about the advantages of electric refrigerators, gas ranges, and new methods of meal prepa- 
ration. Breakfast was eaten here, or in the budding "breakfast nook." So was the children's 
lunch. But dinner— the socially reinforced American tradition — was to be eaten in the 
dining room. In the midst of the increasingly mechanized kitchen the table remained a relic 
of an earlier social heritage — the place for homework, after-school snacks, tea or coffee 
with "the girls." Any function not formally assigned to the parlor or dining room stayed 
in the kitchen. 

The Thirties: Gather Round the Table 

The kitchen has come into its own again. It is in high favor with the whole family. Father 
admits that cooking is his hobby, and is being called "Household Epicure No. 1." The 
children invite their guests into the kitchen for a "cook-your-own-party," and Mother is 
glad to give them the run of it for the evening\Good Housekeeping, 1935\. 

Films and advertisements reflected the kitchen's central role. Movies appealed to fan- 
tasy as stars tap-danced over spacious kitchen floors. Appliance manufacturers played on 
wish fulfillment in hard selling the American kitchen. Ads for new products painted pic- 
tures of wondrous new kitchen worlds with shiny linoleum floors, sparkling appliances, 
and bright colors. These ad campaigns intensified the trend toward installment buying. 
Appliances that had formerly been considered luxuries were now pushed as necessities. 

At the center of all this remained the kitchen table. Now perhaps a little chipped or in 
need of repair, it was covered with oil cloth. Yet it continued to serve as the base of family 
operations, with discussions taking place around it. As the Depression deepened and the 
parlor and dining room became a little more frayed or too hard to heat, the kitchen table 
reigned supreme. For those who found themselves in a new apartment or house, however, 
counter tops were beginning to take some of the strain off the already overloaded table. 

The Forties: Small Is Beautiful? 

We had the latest in post-war housing. It had one of those efficiency kitchens that were 
beautiful to look at but, god, you couldn't move in it [woman speaking about 1948}. 

Those of us who came of age in the forties' kitchen remember it best for its astonishing 
lack of space. After the war, experts agreed that economic demands left room for little 
besides a "functional" kitchen. The need for housing, the tight economy, and the tighter 
supply of building materials led to what "mass production engineers" thought the perfect 
answer: the small, workable kitchen with stove, refrigerator, and sink in a work-saving 
"U" or "L" shape, complete with built-in cabinets, counter tops, and possibly, just possi- 
bly, a few extra feet for a small dinette table. Eating was allocated to the dining alcove (no 
longer its own room) and social functions were pressed into the now central living room 
(no longer the parlor). This arrangement was to hold for another decade, until those habits 
and customs that just didn't fit anywhere else found their way back into the kitchen. 

The Fifties: Out of the Frying Pan . . . 

Despite its size, the kitchen was the center of our four-room apartment. While we were 
incredibly squeezed for space, what with three kids and lots of visitors, the kitchen was the 
place where they -would all come first. I think that I tried to make it so that my children 
could always feel comfortable having their friends in. There was always food — even on the 
tight budget— and there were always people in my kitchen [woman commenting on her 
1950s kitchen]. 

By creating the efficiency kitchen, builders had almost wiped out those harder-to-define 
activities that had traditionally taken place in the kitchen. In the single family home the 
"rec" or rumpus room was quickly carved out of the basement to take the spill-over from 
the cramped kitchen. The kitchen table had lowly or nonexistent status during these years. 
Pushed into a crowded corner, it barely served for meals and provided little physical or 
emotional space for social activities. 

Builders had solved the space problem with smaller kitchens. Now manufacturers 
found the answer to cooking in less space— prepared foods. In 1953 Swanson introduced 
the frozen TV dinner, an event which not only ushered in the age of frozen food, but may 
have changed the American way of eating. Although canned and packaged foods had been 
around since the early part of the century, the notion of completely prepared meals was to 
alter our concept of cooking, and perhaps even our taste. 



The Sixties: The Island Emerges 

Then, like now, realtors knew that the first thing a woman asks before she looks at a house 
is: "Can we eat in the kitchen?" {a woman realtor commenting on the 1960s]. 

As the fifties' split-level grew into the sixties' raised ranch, the kitchen regained some of 
its former weight and size. In the older pre-war homes, pantries and back porches were 
incorporated directly into the kitchen's domain, and in post-war tract houses the family 
room grew up alongside the kitchen. The small kitchen experiment had not worked; even 
in tiny apartments designers were forced to at least open the kitchen up to the dining space. 
Walls tumbled down as people remodeled their kitchen areas. A generation weaned in 
crowded quarters wanted room to grow in. But they made some marked changes. An 
entity called the "island," long the darling of home design magazines, came of age. The 
center of gravity shifted. People no longer sat around the kitchen table; they stood around 
the island or peninsula counter! 

The Seventies: Health Food and Microwaves 

It's critically important to me that the kitchen be the spot where my kids and their friends 
can be comfortable. But there is a big difference between the way my mother used the 
kitchen and the way J see it. She served people in the kitchen. Guests were welcomed in, 
but it was her space and she dominated it. In my kitchen I've tried to arrange it so that the 
kids and their friends, as well as my own friends, can help themselves. Even the island I 
just had built was put in for that purpose. It kind of encourages people to pitch in and help 
{daughter of 1950s woman]. 

The seventies saw activities in the kitchen cum dining room cum family room expand 
still further. Informal dining and entertaining became as common for the middle and upper 
classes as it had long been for the working class. The island stood out as the only line of 
demarcation between work space, eating area, and social/recreational place. Gone were 
the fixed walls and rules separating dining room, living room, rec room, and kitchen. 

With the seventies, we enter an era where convenience foods, fast food restaurants, 
and microwave ovens have become major food suppliers for the household. Yet, at the 
same time, health food counters are springing up in supermarkets— right next to the rows 
of chemically preserved packaged food. While newspaper and magazine articles tout the 
wonders of intimate family life through home cooking and kitchen entertaining, statistics 
show that people are eating more fast food meals than ever before. 

These events didn't happen willy-nilly. 
At each step of the way women were en- 
couraged, through advertising and the 
mass media, to become contented home- 
makers. As technology was introduced to 
lessen the physical burden of home chores, 
ideology was injected to convince women 
that the home and its occupants were her 
most important "product." The emphasis 
was on the emotional fulfillment of home- 
making. Women in their "efficient" kitch- 
ens were supposed to produce better meals 
for their loved ones. The thrust of this 
ideological message served both capital- 
ism and patriarchy, for contented home- 
makers would purchase more products, 
stay out of the labor force, and be so con- 
cerned about their family's welfare that 
they could be domesticated into submis- 
sive roles. Or so it seemed. But the image, 
of the contented housewife has crashed 
into the reality of what women want for 

Our memories of the past are impor- 
tant in shaping our present and molding 
our future. Generally people, and women 
in particular, remember their childhood 

kitchens more clearly than other spaces in 
their lives. For the most part these memo- 
ries are intense and peppered with warm 
spots. And it is this remembered kitchen 
space that influences the environments we 
create for ourselves and our children. 

Our lives at home have been stamped 
by technological advances. Waves of 
ideology have sought to keep women 
comfortably confined within the home. 
We have been bombarded by advertise- 
ments that make us feel guilty if our kitch- 
ens are not cleaner than our neighbors'. 
And we have been encouraged to be active 
consumers, even to the point of buying 
entire kitchens to fit the latest style. 

Yet the kitchen is still the place that 
makes us feel "at home." It is still the re- 
pository of feelings that are often out of 
place in the outside world. The fact that 
women have been able to keep these as- 
pects alive in the midst of external pres- 
sures is a remarkable feat. That the effort 
to preserve these social relations has had 
to come out of isolated, privatized homes 
has only made the task that much more 

1. Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, 
For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Ex- 
perts' Advice to Women (Garden City, 
N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1979). 

2. For a discussion of scientific management 
and its influence on the workplace, see 
Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly 
Capital: The Degradation of Work in the 
Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly 
Review Press, 1974); see also Joan Green- 
baum, In the Name of Efficiency (Phila- 
delphia: Temple University Press, 1979). 

3. Heidi Hartmann, Capitalism and Wom- 
en's Work in the Home, 1900-1930 (PhD 
dissertation, Yale University, 1974). 

Each plan is from a book of house plans 
commonly available during that decade. 

loan Greenbaum teaches at LaGuardia Com- 
munity College and the New School. She 
likes to spend time on the porch of her Vic- 
torian house but often ends up in the kitchen 
with her four children. 



Carol Barkin 

he gadget-filled, wired-up Ameri- 
can dream kitchen that contin- 
ues to pervade home-decorating 
magazines and the fantasies of 
much of the population has many power- 
ful antecedents. It received one of its big- 
gest boosts in the middle of the Great 
Depression, when most people worried 
about having food on the table rather 
than whether there was an electric mixer 
on the counter. In April 1935, Architec- 
tural Forum published the winning entries 
of a competition sponsored by General 
Electric for the design of "The House of 
Modern Living." An analysis of the com- 
petition program, the jury selected to pick 
the winners, and the entries themselves 
reveals the cultural stereotypes fostered 
by industry that have dominated kitchen 
design in 20th-century America. 



The fictional Mr. and Mrs. Bliss at home 
with their son. Architectural Forum, 1935. 
Used with permission of Architectural Rec- 

"The House of Modern Living" was to 
house a fictitious family named Bliss. Mr. 
and Mrs. Bliss and their small son ap- 
peared to live in a never-never land where 
the Depression did not exist. Mr. Bliss was 
a 32-year-old engineer who liked sports. 

The Bliss family ten years later in their ap- 
pliance-filled kitchen. Architectural Forum, 

In the evenings he worked on sketches for 
inventions, played bridge, or read a book. 
He was a man who liked a place for every- 
thing and everything in its place. Mrs. 
Bliss, a housewife, had gone to the same 
college as her husband, where she had 
prepared herself for her future by major- 
ing in home economics and child training. 
She did her own housework because "fi- 
nancial circumstances preclude an all-time 
maid. . .[and] .. .she actually enjoys the 
work." 1 Mrs. Bliss believed in using the 
best labor- and time-saving equipment so 
that she would have spare time for her 
child, for friends, and for shopping. 

The competition was divided into two 
phases. For the first phase entrants were 
asked to design a house for the Blisses and 
their four-year-old son. In the second 
phase the Blisses were ten years older. 
Their 14-year-old son now had a younger 
sister, age nine. The other addition to the 
family' was a live-in maid, placing the 
Blisses among the less than 1% of all 
households with full-time help. 2 Mrs. 
Bliss, still a skilled housewife, now had 
more time for "women's clubs and various 
social activities." 

Since the competition's stated aim was 
a serious attempt at improving housing 
design, careful attention was given to the 
selection of the panel that would evaluate 
the submissions. The jury, as it is called in 
the architectural profession, was com- 
posed of seven architects from the seven 
major geographic areas in the United 
States. An expert in child training, a do- 
mestic scientist, a general contractor, and 
a real estate man "expert in the field of the 
small house" were also included "to insure 
that the selections would be completely 
realistic." 3 After a lengthy and glowing 
description of the architects and the real- 
tor, the Architectural Forum article stated 
that "two of the nation's best known 
women, Katherine Fisher, director of the 
Good Housekeeping Institute, and Dr. 
Grace Langdon, child expert from Colum- 
bia, contributed the women's angle." 4 

■-i~-- ?■5^:AiSIjLjiy&r^•»«9^^£' ! • Bill 

Jury members for the House of Modern Liv- 
ing Competition sponsored by General Elec- 
tric in 1935. One of the two women jurors is 
not pictured. Architectural Forum, 1935. 

With little paid work available at the 
height of the Depression, 2040 architects 
entered the competition. The rules re- 
quired floor plans, an exterior drawing, 
and one interior perspective of a basement 
playroom, a kitchen, or a laundry room. 
The architects who entered overwhelm- 
ingly chose the kitchen for their interior 
perspective. Perhaps they assumed that 
the winning "House of Modern Living" 
selected by General Electric would have to 
be packed with appliances and gadgetry 
and the kitchen afforded the best oppor- 
tunity to show this. 


© 1981 Carol Barkin 








IcuAtiNC Don 


Shot oiatl 


SuCATtQ ■ 

The kitchen and electrical equipment schedule submitted by the Grand Prize winner in 
House of Modern Living Competition. Architectural Forum, 1935. 


The grand prize winner played all the 
right hunches. Like many other entrants, 
he designed a modern, flat-roofed dwell- 
ing that Architectural Forum acknow- 
ledged was "perhaps some years ahead of 
popular acceptance." 5 He chose the kitch- 
en for his perspective presentation and 
managed to cram 32 electrical devices 
manufactured by General Electric into his 
house plan. The equipment ranged from a 
refrigerator and stove to a razor blade 

Although the jurors paid no special 
attention to the kitchen, the "efficiency" 
of the winning schemes appears to be re- 
lated to the number of electrical devices 
shown. The idea of electricity as the sav- 
ior for overworked women was as unreal- 
istic as Mr. and Mrs. Bliss themselves. In 
1932 only 27% of all homes had a wash- 
ing machine and only 11.5% had a refrig- 
erator. 6 By 1935, with the Depression 
continuing in full force, there is no reason 
to believe that the statistics had changed 

In all of the published schemes the 
kitchen was designed as a separate space 
closed off from the rest of the house. The 
designers seem to have made the assump- 
tion that Mrs. Bliss would work in isola- 
tion. In the grand prize winner's solution, 

there was a laundry and small planning 
desk incorporated into the kitchen, rein- 
forcing the idea of the housewife as "cap- 
tain" of the domestic ship. The isolated 
kitchen derives from an earlier time when 
servants were accorded a separate domain. 
The first phase of submissions for the 
"House of Modern Living" made no at- 
tempt to redefine the kitchen for a servant- 
less family but rather merely reduced the 
size of the kitchen and substituted Mrs. 
Bliss for servants. 

The array of appliances manufactured 
by General Electric and other companies 
was born out of the dreams of early tink- 
erers who saw mechanization as the solu- 
tion to the drudgery of housework. Also 
helping to define the modern kitchen were 
home economists, frequently women, 
who sought to make housework more ef- 
ficient and to raise the status of domestic 
labor to that of a science. The goal of 
these domestic professionals was to help 
women to become competent housewives 
rather than to liberate them from their 
labors. Like the two women on the com- 
petition jury, they had interesting careers 
convincing women to be happy working 
at home. 

The winning kitchen might seem too 
efficient or sterile by today's popular stan- 

dards. Women's magazines in the inter- 
vening years since the competition have 
promoted the warm, cheery kitchen with 
French country or cozy Colonial styling. 
Moreover, the family room began to ap- 
pear in later houseplans, purportedly 
bringing women out of the isolation of the 
kitchen. Yet increased family togetherness 
did not result in the sharing of domestic 
chores to any appreciable degree. The cul- 
tural assumptions about women and 
kitchens implicit in the General Electric 
competition continued to be promoted by 
women's magazines and manufacturers of 
domestic items until they came under 
question by the feminist movement in the 
early 1970s. 

There have been other proposals for 
freeing women from the kitchen besides 
the notion of labor-saving devices. One 
was to provide meals outside the home. 
Fast foods and frozen dinners began to be 
marketed in the 1950s as modern "con- 
veniences" for the housewife. They have 
become necessities in the 1970s for many 
working mothers, despite the expense and 
poor quality of much convenience food. 
Another alternative was a communal 
sharing of work, where a few did the 
cooking for many. With the exception of 
some experiments in the 1960s, this idea 
has mostly been ignored. 7 

Even today most women continue to 
work alone in their kitchens, aided by as 
many appliances as they can afford. (In 
1970 only 19% of U.S. households had a 
dishwasher. 8 ) Women are still the chief 
cooks for their families; the main dif- 
ference being that today most women 
help pay for the food as well as prepare it. 

1. Architectural Forum, April 1935, p. 274. 

2. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical 
Statistics of the United States, Colonial 
Times to 1970 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. 
Government Printing Office, 1975). Ex- 
trapolated from Volume I. 

3. Architectural Forum, April 1935, p. 275. 

4. Ibid., p. 280. 

5. Ibid., p. 281. 

6. Albert Farwell Bemis, The Evolving 
House, Vol. II (Cambridge: MLT Press), 
p. 67. 

7. For a discussion of these alternatives see: 
Dolores Hayden, The Architecture of 
Communitarian Socialism, 1790-1975 
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1976) and Dol- 
ores Hayden, "Challenging the American 
Domestic Idea," in Women in American 
Architecture: A Historic and Contempo- 
rary Perspective, ed. Susana Torre (New 
York: Watson Guptill, 1977). 

8. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of 
Housing, 1970 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. 
Government Printing Office, 1970). 

Carol Barkin has a Master of Architecture 
from UCLA and is currently a free-lance de- 
signer and teacher. 



nvironment As Memory 

An Interview with Donna Dennis and Maureen Connor 

Donna Dennis. Two Stories with Porch (for 
Robert Cubuzio). 1977-79. Mixed media. 
126"xl20'/2"x85". Photo by D. James Dee. 
Courtesy Holly Solomon Gallery. 


The following is a condensation of a conversation among two artists, Donna Dennis and 
Maureen Connor, and two members of the Editorial Collective for Issue 11, Debby Nevins 
and jane McGroarty. The work of both Dennis and Connor is directly inspired by imagery 
connected to architecture and the domestic environment. For the past eight years, Dennis 
has made small buildings, many of which have been houses or motels — the domestic en- 
vironment on a public scale. Connor's organdy sculptures are based on intricate, tradition- 
al napkin-folding patterns. These fabric sculptures are self-supporting; their structural 
strength is a result of the folding process. 

Debby: The making of art can transform, conquer, and exorcise emotions. What are your 
autobiographical associations to your work? Does your work have metaphorical content? 
Donna: I moved quite a bit when I was young. When my father got back from World 
War II, we moved to Washington, D.C. My mother somehow couldn't make a break with 
her parents; my mother and my sister. and I would spend every summer in Ohio while my 
father stayed in Washington, except for a few weeks when the family took a vacation to- 
gether. We would just set out by car without hotel reservations. We would drive to the 
Rockies or somewhere else in the West. There- were often times when it would be getting 
dark and we would go past all these motels with the "No Vacancy" sign turned on. It was a 
very special time in a way; it was sort of scary yet I was with the family — secure and 

There was also a tradition of being interested in architecture. My mother, coming from 
Ohio, always wanted to go to New England and see the architecture. We would go through 
these old New England towns and she would say, "Look at that door," and I thought, 
"Yuck" — you know, the Williamsburg kind of thing. Somehow I felt my own kind of 
interest. I was attracted to the sleazy places. I also have an early memory of going to 
Boston and visiting the Old North Church. I must have imagined it being like one of those 
restored houses that she liked. It was in a slum and really decrepit and I felt sorry for it. 
My emotional connections to architecture have a lot to do with the work that I do. 

As I became involved in architecture, I started noticing certain buildings in New York. 
I'd see an old storefront, all mirrors and beautiful; then it would have a "For Rent" sign, 
and later I would see the building torn down . . . and I must have felt as if I had a mission to 
do a piece about its being forgotten. 

All my pieces take me a year. I may do maquettes and drawings. I like that a piece in- 
volves an entire year of my life. I'm completely self-taught in construction. In the Two- 
Story House I built, I built the roof of the porch three times before I got it right. Three 
whole roofs. But there is a part I really like to do — the surfaces, the tiles. It is really very 
meditative. I can sort of rest in between — trying to figure out how to do a roof or some- 
thing — and I just paint or rule off these squares and then I paint them. 

Jane: In working on a piece for a year, which has repetitive, meditative parts, does the his- 
tory of its making affect you later? 

Debby: I was wondering if you remembered the making of the work in a personal sense, 
connecting specific parts of the building with specific events or feelings in your life? 
Donna: A friend of mine died when I was about halfway through making the Two-Story 
House. When it was finished I dedicated it to him. He had liked it a lot and it became a 
memorial. He was 35 and the first friend of mine who died. I am just at the age when you 
realize that you are going to die one day. I thought a lot about the room upstairs with the 
light — it was a place for him spiritually. The downstairs was more public. The whole 
piece, in the end, meant something about going on. The house was painted and looked like 
something that was going through a renovation and was about to take on a new life. One 
could imagine that it had been a private home and somebody new had bought it and it had 
just gotten a fresh paint job. 

Jane: Your work is architectural in a sense, but the scale is not architectural. How do you 
arrive at the size? 

Donna: When I made my wall panels in the late 1960s, they were 10 feet tall. Then, when I 
first became involved with feminism, I decided that I had been trying to seduce the male 
world by working so large. A lot of men were doing big art. So I began to work in my own 
size. The hotels were 5' 8Vi" tall — my height. I still use that scale. 


© 1981 Jane McGroarty, Deborah Nevins 





Maureen Connor. Column A. Photo by 
Wolfgang Hoyt. Courtesy Acquavella Gal- 








^,.r.? c ''' «^-- 



i i 

Maureen Connor, Installation view, 1980. Photo by Wolfgang Hoyt. Courtesy of Acquavella 

Debby: Maureen, what kind of autobiographical associations do you make to your work? 
Maureen: In my family, women were always setting elaborate tables and making fancy 
meals, especially my grandmother. I remember great concern about what was put on the 
table— the right kind of tablecloths, the right kind of napkins—and all that. 

The work is certainly about transformation. It is also about the idea of pushing the 
limits of fabric— how far could I push without anything in there doing the supporting? For 
me it was really a metaphor — fabric being very fragile and delicate. 
Debby: A metaphor for what? 

Maureen: For myself. . . this fragile thing that is being pushed as far as it can go and is able 
to stand up and be tough. 

Debby: Would you want to, for aesthetic reasons, go bigger? 

Maureen: I would. In fact, I had the idea of seeing if I could actually try one that was tent 
size. . .a small architectural scale; especially like the pleated column (Column A). That 
piece has a lot of layers, each layer supports the next layer, and each layer is a little bigger. 
I wondered how rhany more layers I actually could put on that piece and still have it stand 
up. I have never seen any other structural use of fabric like this napkin folding where the 
fabric is the structure and doesn't need any other support. 

Jane: It is like folded plate construction where the planes of the material provide support 
rather than sticks holding things up. 
Debby: Do you think of your work as feminist? 

Maureen: Yes, I do, but especially on the personal level. Pushing the limits of fabric re- 
flects my own feelings of being pushed, pushing my female side. I see it as the inverse of 
macho, so feminine yet tough. For me napkin folding is one of the most beautiful things 
that I have discovered that women did, that women invented. Men certainly invented 
some napkin-folding patterns, but it is clearly a woman's tradition, a woman's art. Women 
made all those folds and created those objects, except, of course, the waiter in a restaurant. 
However, women's forms of expression carry a certain history of oppression, like the 
napkin-folding tradition. What are they, if not partly symbols of oppression? Women 
made these beautiful objects that were destroyed the moment people sat down to dinner. 
Middle-class women had the time to produce incredible ornaments because they-were not 
allowed to venture beyond the home. Poor women would be away from their own homes 
folding napkins for someone else. Yet these napkins created beauty in everyone's lives and 
are testaments to women's skill and imagination in designing beautiful environments. Part 
of doing the napkin-folding pieces is for me not just a celebration of this imagination but 
also the recognition of the pain they express and represent. 


iMS^j^&ifcit j 



The Bessie Smith Memorial Dance Ha 

Donna Robertson 

I'm like a poor fly 
Spiderman, please let me go, 
You've got me in your house, 
And I can't get out the door. 

— Bessie Smith, Spiderman Blues 

At the still point of the turning world 
There is the Dance. 

— T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets 







F '- 

First Floor Plan. 

Good morning blues, 
Blues how do you do? 
Good morning blues, 
Blues how do you do? 
I just came here 
To have some words with you. 
— Bessie Smith 

This project deals 

.nth three main concerns: Bessie Smith, the blues, and the American 

Bessie Smith was born about 1898 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She grew up singing in the 
church until, at age 14, she met and sang for her idol Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, the most 
famous of the early blues singers. Ma Rainey took Bessie with her in her Rabbit Foot Min- 
strel Show, which toured the deep South. Bessie was able to learn all about the vaudeville 
techniques of the minstrels, yet her own singing retained little of their theatrical manner 
and relied instead on the gospel approach to singing. "When you went to see Bessie and she 
came out, that was it," recalled a fellow musician. "If you had any church background, 
like people who came from the South as I did, you would recognize a similarity between 
what she was doing and what those preachers and evangelists from there did, and how 
they moved people. . . . Bessie did the same thing on stage." Her singing style, which owed 
much to Ma Rainey, relied on strong "center tones," around which she would work her 
tune. Thus, the familiar melody of the blues tune would be reinterpreted for the audience 
by the singer; the traditional meaning was given new life by the expressiveness of the 
singer. And expressive Bessie was: "Every note that woman wailed vibrated on the tight 
strings of my nervous system. Every word she sang answered a question 1 was asking," 
wrote Mezz Mezzrow. 

The blues grew out of a mixture of African rhythms and song, brought to America by the 
slaves, and an acquired knowledge of European church music. The first form the amalga- 
mation took was that of gospel music, as sung in the deep South. Blues began when gospel 
was taken out of the churches into the secular realm by displaced individuals drifting 
about the countryside, and by field hands in the agrarian South, who planted and harvest- 
ed to its rhythm. When the society of the South was disrupted by the Civil War and the 
economy plummeted, many southern Blacks traveled to the North looking for work. They 
took the blues with them, thus enlarging its venue, and they raised its status to a valid 
form of formal entertainment for the Black community (that is, one for which people 
would pay an admission charge). The blues, however, retained a seemingly salacious ir- 
reverence that made the church-goers condemn its influence on impressionable children. 
The blues spoke of the same matters that gospel did, but with a secular, immediate, and 
sexual insistence that demanded resolution here on earth. They did have a dangerous side. 

The American monument acts as a reminder for its audience, whether as a commemora- 
tion of an event or person through association, or as an exceptional example of something. 
Both intentions aim to reinforce collective values held by the monument's audience and to 
allow its viewers a control over time, through the process of memory, and a control over 
place, through an embodiment of permanence and stability. 


Earthy, direct, sexual. 
Homelessness, travel, loneliness. 
Related to the body, of the individual 


Heavenly, evocative, transcendent. 

Drawn to home and sanctuary, rooted, 

Related to the mind, of the fellowship in 

community and God. 

Second Floor Plan. 




the Dance/Communion 

fellowship, transcendence 

stasis and calm 



Contemplation /Communion 

inner-directed, quiet 


© 1981 Donna Robertson 


somewhere in 

Front Elevatii 


SANCTUARY: a consecrated place, as of a house of worship 
a place of refuge, asylum, or protection. 

The location of the Hall attempts to suggest the actuality of the abject as countered with 
the mythical realm it must inhabit. There is an evocativeness to the name "Harlem," asso- 
ciated with music, community, tempers, and the possibility that it might be like nowhere 
else on earth. We can't say exactly where the Hall might be: you could turn the corner, 
look into that empty lot, and there it would be. This possibility of "coming upon" the 
object might even serve to engage the viewer more, into a quest of sorts. The mythical 
realm is also a reference to the unknown region of the dance, when one unexpectedly 
"comes upon" a transcendent release. 

MEMORIAL: a written statement of facts, or a petition. 

When I was back in the Seminary, 

I was told you can petition the Lord with prayer. . . 

Petition the Lord with prayer. 

You cannot petition the Lord with prayer! 

Can you find me sanctuary? 
I must find a place to dwell, 
A place for me to dwell. 

—Jim Morrison and the Doors, Soft Parade 
When a woman gets in trouble 
Everybody throws her down 
Looking for her good friend 
None can be found 
You better come on, in my kitchen 
There's going to be rain in our door. 

— Robert Johnson, Come on in my Kitchen 

"' ,: 

Site Plan. 

This building acts as an object that is an 
image of memory and experience — and so, 
time, when viewed from the outside. The 
journey through the object brings one to 
its center, the locus for the participant to 
lose the self in the dance; and so, the build- 
ing becomes the spatial embodiment of 
place. Mediating between these two ex- 
tremes are the two rooms, created by the 
intersection of the two plane geometries. 
They become the complement to the dance 
floor (the place of release); they are the 
spaces housing objects signifying the 
drawn-to-home longing of the blues and 
the paradoxical nature of sex that makes it 
part of home (a release from the self and a 
communion with anotherat thesame time) 
— these objects are the stove and the bed. 
And so, there is a simultaneity and over- 
lap expressed between two seemingly op- 
posing elements of the blues: home versus 
the freedom to move on. 

-- ,4 
p. i ii 



! i ! 1 j i j 


:'. 5 I 

. !.]> 

.1 I..I.1...1 i j. 



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If \ ■ 

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■"l 1 1 

Side Elevation. 

When this you see, remember me. 
— Gertrude Stein 

Donna Robertson, an architect, was a 1979 
finalist of the Rome Prize and a member of 
the design team that won the international 
competition for the Parliament of Australia. 



Deborah F. Nevins 

'I always loved architecture more than anything else, but I did not think I was capable of it." —Eileen Gray 

1 ileen Gray's reflection reveals her 

, self-doubt at the beginning of her 
career in architecture. Only in her 

i mid-40s, with neither academic train- 
ing nor apprenticeship in architecture, did 
she tackle her first project: a house. Yet, 
when she died in 1976 at 97, her architec- 
ture, her interior design, and her furniture 
stood among the most outstanding bodies 
of work of the modern movement.- 

Gray's personal biography is as excep- 
tional as her professional one. It reveals 
an independent, courageous, and creative 
character. In this light, Gray's articulate 
expression of her lack of self-confidence in 
the realm of professional life becomes 
even more poignant. This, unfortunately, 
is a feeling held by many women whose 
achievements have been recognized as ex- 

Although she did not practice archi- 
tecture until her fifth decade, the first 20 
years of her adult life were an odyssey 
toward architecture. Born in Ireland in 
1879 to a wealthy family, Gray was one 
of the first women to attend the Slade 
School of Art in London, where she stud- 
ied painting at the turn of the century. 
Soon abandoning the role of fine artist, 
she apprenticed herself to a craftsman 
who did lacquer work in London. She 
became highly skilled at the craft and was 
able to produce' magnificent designs using 
this demanding and time-consuming proc- 
ess. (At least 22 coats— each one requiring 
24 hours to dry — are needed to build up 
the glistening smooth lacquer surface.) 

In 1902, at age 23, she settled in Paris, 
where she remained until her death. In 
1913 she exhibited at the Salon de la So- 
ciete des Artistes Decorateurs, and she 
continued to show her work from then 
on. By the '20s, she was producing screens, 
lacquer panels, and all types of furniture, 
as well as lamps and rugs. The work can 
be loosely described as what we now call 
Art Deco. 

By the mid-20s, she was beginning to 
employ the more industrialized aesthetic 
of the International Style. Her decorative 
patterns became more abstract. At the 
same time, she also made her first archi- 
tectural studies. 

In 1924 the entire issue of the avant- 
garde Dutch periodical Wendigen was 
devoted to her work. It contained state- 
ments on her work by Jan Wils and Jean 

Badovici. The publication introduced her 
to an important audience outside Paris. 
Badovici became her first client. 

From her own gallery/boutique, "Jean 
Desert," opened in 1922, she sold her 
limited-edition designs. Although a "suc- 
ces d'estime," the gallery was not a finan- 
cial triumph; it closed in 1930. Its estab- 
lishment, however, was an innovative 
and adventuresome act, not paralleled by 
the efforts of any other avant-garde de- 
signer of the time. Why did she do this 
and what were the consequences for her? 

Until very recently, it was thought un- 
professional for architects to market their 
own designs; and in America it has only 
recently become ethical for architects to 
be developers. But when Gray opened the 
gallery, she was not yet actively involved 
in building; she had no academic or pro- 
fessional credentials in architecture to 
hold her back from becoming an entre- 
preneur. The fact remains that she was 
not taken seriously by historians and her 
work never got the recognition it deserved 
in her time. Even now, she is sometimes 
billed as "Eileen Gray, who had a gallery/ 
boutique in Paris." Perhaps this is due, in 
part, to her role as a quasi-manufacturer. 
This may have made her seem a dilettante. 
The gallery may have failed, in part, 
because the shy and private Gray was not 
aggressive enough to pursue the publicity 
needed for public acceptance of any busi- 
ness venture. And then there was the con- 
fusion about her role: Was she a designer 
or was she a "vendeuse" as well as "pa- 
trone"? And there was the Depression. 

Gray's adventurous spirit and the in- 
dependence and the strength required to 
pursue her work were paralleled by her 
physical daring and life style. She was a 
pioneer aviatrix. In 1920, she was among 
the group that made the first airmail ser- 
vice between New Mexico and Acapulco. 
In her personal life, she was extremely 
independent for the time — living alone, it 
seems, all her adult life. 

On first view, Eileen Gray's work from 
the mid-20s clearly falls within the aes- 
thetic canons of the International Style. 
She employs its clean lines, lack of orna- 
ment, 20th-century materials, and under- 
stated elegance. But what sets her apart 
from orthodox modernism is the manner 
in which she uses this vocabulary. Her 

Eileen Gray in her nineties in her Paris apart- 
ment, Rue Bonaparte. 

humanistic philosophy and profound ap- 
proach to the question of functionalism 
separate her from the leaders of the avant- 
garde of the '20s. Her spaces and furniture 
are often designed to have multiple uses, 
contrasting with the modern movement's 
mono-functionalist approach. 1 Further- 
more, Gray's spaces are total environ- 
ments, filled with her own designs of 
furniture, rugs, and lamps. This approach 
underlines many of the concerns of the 
modern movement, especially the Bau- 
haus; but in reality, it has not usually 
been actualized. Moreover, Gray's work 
is exceptional for the level of detail at 
which she confronts and solves a problem. 
When considering the use of an object in 
space, she analyzes every component of 
the physical actions or functions connect- 
ed to that object, creating a design whose 
physical form responds meticulously to 
that analysis. 

An examination of her first house, de- 
signed and built between 1926 and 1929, 
provides a thorough understanding of her 
approach and a sense of the exceptional 
quality and inventiveness of her work. It 
was called the E-1027 house or "Maison 
en bord de Mer," 2 the title of the article 
which presented the house in detail in 
L 'Architecture Vivante. Jean Badovici, 
the editor of the influential journal, was 
the client, and he may have had a hand in 
its design. The dialogue between Gray 
and Badovici (see below) accompanied 
the publication of the house in the 1929 


i£) 1981 Deborah Nevins 

The two-story house is situated on a 
rocky, sloping site overlooking the Medi- 
terranean Sea at Roquebrune on the 
French Riviera. The house is a finely tuned 
response to the exigencies of a very specif- 
ic program: a small vacation home for a 
single man, servants, and occasional 
guests. Nothing in the design is without 
significant meaning for the total scheme 
of the functioning of the house. 

Providing isolation and privacy for 
guests and owner while organizing spaces 
for collective activity is the major theme 
which determines the circulation and 
planning of the house. This well-known 
concern in all architecture is treated with 
a sensitivity that makes for the exception- 
al quality of the house. 

The circulation system underscores 
this theme. The section of the house along 
the slope of the site is so organized that 
each floor has ground-level access. Kitch- 
en, living room, master bedroom and 
bath are on the upper floor; reception, 
guest bedroom, storage area, maid's room 
and bath are on the lower floor. An exteri- 
or stair off the master bedroom connects 
it with the lower level of the site, which is 
just above the beach. Another exterior 
stair connects the terrace in front of the 
living room with the ground. A door 
on the west opens directly from the bed/ 
alcove in the living room to the terrace 
that wraps around the building from the 
south to the west. The guest bedroom on 
the lower level has its own access to the 
ground. Thus guest and host can move 
freely, in and out, up and down in the ex- 
terior system, without crossing paths. The 
interior spiral stair connecting the floors is 
in an enclosed area. Movement from floor 
to floor is thereby isolated, permitting pri- 
vate interior vertical circulation. 

The living room, the largest space in 
the house (approximately 40x15 ft.), is 
also structured around the theme of isola- 
tion and collective activity. Privacy is en- 
sured for this space by visually blocking 
its entrance from the exterior (the formal 
entrance to the house) with a wall/cup- 
board. So, even when the front door is 
open, as is often the case in a warm cli- 
mate, the room is isolated from the porch 
and the foyer. Further privacy is provided 
by a hallway which separates the living 
room from the master bedroom. Yet, fit- 
ted with chairs, couches, and an eating 
area at one end, the room also serves as 
the major gathering space in the house. 
And in order to accommodate several 
guests in the small house, a bed/alcove is 
incorporated in the living room, visually 
secluded by a fireplace. The wall behind 
the bed is fitted with compartments for 
storing clothes and pillows. During the 
day, the bed becomes an auxiliary couch. 
In addition, the large couch, the major 
piece of furniture here, can be used as a 
double bed; or, since it is formed from 


Roquebrune: view facing the sea 




* i'. 




Living room, Roquebrune. 



two sections, as twin beds. A small bath- 
room is situated opposite the bed/alcove 
and is blocked from the rest of the room 
by a low wall. The living room thus be- 
comes a paradigm of the multifunctional 
approach through its spatial articulation 
and the furniture it contains. Multifunc- 
tionality is evident in the other rooms as 
well. Master bedroom and guest room are 
both fitted with sinks and desks. Beds are 
designed with upholstered backs and are 
also thought of as divans. 

Similar to her conceptual thinking 
about rooms, diversity and option are 
notions that inform Gray's design re- 
sponses to the environmental conditions. 
Her work shows a sensitivity to the cycli- 
cal rhythms of the days and the seasons. 
Her treatment of windows is a case in 
point. At least three types of windows are 
used: sliding and folding on two sizes, 
pivoting, and double-hung. Some win- 
dows are protected by wooded shutters 
with movable louvers. The larger, floor- 
to-ceiling sliding and folding windows 
along the living room wall are shielded by 
awnings over the terrace. Canvas also 
surrounds the terrace. In the winter the 
canvas can be taken down to allow the 
sun to warm the legs of people sitting 
there. With this combination of window 
layerings and canvas to filter light and air, 
a finely modulated and subtle range of 
temperatures is possible. 

The furniture designed for the house 
elaborates Gray's view of an environment 
as a finely calibrated response to human 
needs. In her analysis of the function of an 
object, she deals with a variety of ways it 
can be used over time. Her furniture, like 
her spaces, is conceived of not as isolated 
elements but as participants in a web of 
actions that make up the drama of life. 

Gray understood, in a detailed way, 
the use of an object over the span of a day 
or throughout the year, integrating this 
understanding into her work. In the 
broadest sense, then, "time" becomes a 
component of her analysis of functional- 
ism. As a result, many of her objects have 
a quality of physical transformability that 
amplifies or extends the number of ways 
the objects can be used within the primary 
activity they serve. Note, for instance, her 
small side table consisting of a metal arm- 
ature and a circular piece of glass. Made 
during the period Roquebrune was under 
construction, this table is shown in photo- 
graphs of the house. Cantilevered off a 
metal column, the glass top is secured to 
the column by a metal pin, which fits into 
a series of holes along the length of the 
column. This allows the table to serve as a 
coffee table or side table. In addition, 
because its top is supported only at the 
edge, it can slide into position as an over- 
the-bed table. Pulled close to a person 
sitting in a chair (possible because of its 
open-circle base), the table can be used to 
serve informal meals. 


Living room bed/ajcove, Roquebrune. 

Other objects whose use is amplifiei. 
by physical transformability include a set 
of tables that can be connected to form a 
large dining table and a cocktail table with 
a lip around the four sides to prevent 
glasses from being knocked off. This 
table's top can be reversed and the height 
of the legs adjusted to convert it into a 
dining table. 

Gray's concern with how rooms and 
objects are used over time led her to ac- 
knowledge, in her design, aspects of 
everyday life, such as the unmade bed or 
reading and eating in bed, aspects that 
had never been explored by other design- 
ers. She was one of the first, if not the 
first, to design colored sheets. She argued 
that they would provide color and beauty 
in a room when the bed was unmade, as it 
so often is. In the guest bed/alcove, she 
designed a small table that swings out 
from the wall over the bed. The table's easel 
can be adjusted so that when raised, the 
table can be used for reading; when low- 
ered, it can be used for eating or writing. 
This pivoting bed table, implying the ro- 
tation of an arm from the elbow, acknowl- 
edges, as do so many of her designs, both 
physical comfort and human gesture as a 
profound inspiration. Gray noted that "it 
is necessary to give to the work of art the 
form which best responds to the spon- 
taneous gesture, or the instinctive reflex 
which corresponds to its use." 3 

In addition to her exceptionally so- 
phisticated attitude toward the problem 
of function, her designs are characterized 
by a quality of "body-centeredness." The 
primary focus of each object's design is 
the physical movement and comfort of 
the user. She also took into account the 
four senses, in a somewhat more pro- 
nounced and refined manner than other 
designers. Her use of cork for table tops 
eliminated the harsh, clanging sound of 
an object against glass; she used fur throws 
on beds and soft layerings of cushions to 
stimulate the sense of touch; she used fil- 
tered light to comfort the eye; she isolated 
the kitchen to one side of the house and 
provided an outdoor kitchen for the sum- 

mer, in order to eliminate food odors 
from the house. 

Although all chairs have a relationship 
to the seated anatomy, several of Gray's 
chairs make a more pronounced anthro- 
pomorphic reference. The transat chair is 
constructed of two upholstered pieces, 
slung from a wooden armature, thus pro- 
viding both soft seating and an image of a 
supple person in a seated position — a met- 
aphor of a seated human skeleton. The 
bibendum chair is semicircular and uphol- 
stered; it sits like a womb ready to contain 
a person. 

Gray described her work anthropo- 
morphically: "Windows without shutters 
are like eyes without eyelids."' 1 She called 
her house "a living organism." In a sense, 
because of the great number of objects in 
the house that are physically flexible, it is. 
Filled with objects that move in response 
to the body, the house is like a kinetic 

;.-.OV:>j-. ■■■ ;; 




<***' Vi 


Sliding and folding windows, Roquebrune. 

sculpture whose design is keyed to the 
human anatomy. 

In her writing Gray called for spiritu- 
ality, symbolism, and emotion in archi- 
tecture. The planning of the Roquebrune 
house responds to psychological needs. 
And in much of her decoration as well as 
in certain architectural details, she added 
a poetic and symbolic dimension. She 
placed the fireplace next to the living 
room window so that "one should see the 
light of the fire and that of the day at 
once." 5 The decoration of the house sug- 
gests the maritime life of the Riviera. The 
living room rug is executed in tones of 
blue and gray; a marine map on the wall 
can be illuminated at night to "evoke 
thoughts of long voyages and provoke 



BiBendum chair and table by Eileen Gray. 

dreams." 6 Many details are suggestive of 
boats: the striped material of pillows and 
curtains, the small terraces around the 
building suggesting the decks of a ship, a 
spiral stair recalling the stairs in small 
vessels. The compactness of the wall in 
the guest alcove, which combines storage, 
a clock, and a compartment for a pillow, 
is suggestive of ship's cabinetry. Through- 
out the house, the names of objects con- 
tained within are stenciled on the doors of 
closets and cupboards, recalling the use of 
words throughout a ship to indicate the 
placement of objects for the passengers 
and crew. 

Finally, the inevitable question: Is there 
a specifically feminine dimension to Gray's 
work? We can speculate that Gray's finely 
tuned awareness of the way objects are 
used — a level of sensitivity not seen in 
other outstanding personalities in the 
modern movement — derives from a per- 
spective traditionally ingrained in the fe- 
male personality, particularly in the up- 
bringing of a Victorian girl. Women were 
trained to care for the spiritual and physi- 
cal well-being of others, above all else. As 
a result, they often have a more conscious 
understanding than most men of people's 
bodily needs and a deeper comprehension 
of the functioning of a house through 
time, simply as a result of being and work- 
ing therein more than men. As has been 
described, Gray's work reflects this con- 
ditioning. As a woman and a nonprofes- 
sional architect, Gray was on two counts 
an outsider to the world of professional 
architects and theorists. She also lived as 
an expatriate. Perhaps for this reason, as 
well as her own perceptiveness, she was 
able as early as 1920 to criticize the mod- 
ern movement in a way that has held 
widespread acceptance only since the 

The dialogue between Badovici and 
Gray in L' Architecture Vivante sets out 
her theories and provides a commentary 
on the modern movement. Its title, "From 
Eclecticism to Doubt," synthesizes her 
view of the state of architecture in 1929. 
In brief, although architects have rejected 
the eclectic aesthetics of the past, they 
have not yet found a mode for the 20th 
century that can incorporate both the 
spiritual and utilitarian needs of the mod- 

ern age. Gray criticized her contempo- 
raries for their rigid theory, emphasis on 
functionalism, and technological solutions 
to the exclusion of the expression of sen- 
suality and spirituality in architecture. 
She did not reject the use of new techno- 
logical advances nor the search for a hous- 
ing prototype for the 20th century. She 
did warn against an oversimplification of 
architecture and the use of a housing pro- 
totype as a stencil for building. For her, 
the prototype was to be constructed in the 
most economical and advanced way pos- 
sible, to serve only as an inspiration for 
housing. It should be modified by the 
specificity of each individual building sit- 
uation. Above all, the architectural ideal 
had to respond to the "habits" of our time, 
to an understanding of the needs and 
emotions of the individual. This emphasis 
on the understanding of society's needs, 
the stress on spirituality, and the multi- 
functionalism of many of her designs set 
her apart from the mainstream of the 
modern movement. 

Today architects are searching for an 
architecture more responsive to the needs 
of individuals, for a more sensual archi- 
tecture, and for an architecture imbued 
with greater symbolic content than has 
been present in most 20th-century build- 
ings. Gray's work provides a model for a 
contemporary architecture. The symbol- 
ism of the house at Roquebrune derives 
directly from the specificity of the pro- 
gram and of the site; the plan, too, results 
from the interface of her theory and the 
particulars of the building program. The- 
ory never triumphs over human need. 
Moreover, Gray provides us with a model 
for a personhood of strength and individ- 
ualism. And in the final account, we see 
that Gray did, in fact, have the ability to 
design on an architectural scale. 

1. The Schroeder house (Utrecht, Holland, 
1924) is the other main example of this 
approach. The upper floor can be trans- 
formed from a large open space into four 
partitioned spaces. Each space is fitted 
with a bed, cooking equipment, and sink. 

2. E-1027 is a code for the names of Gray 
and Badovici: 10 = ]; 2 = B; 7 = G. L'Ar- 
chitecture Vivante published the house as 
the work of Eileen Gray and Jean Bado- 
vici, in that order. Roquebrune's quality 
reappears in the Badovici apartment reno- 
vation and the home Gray built for her- 
self. These later works are credited to 
Gray alone, suggesting that she was the 
main designer of Roquebrune. 

3. Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, "De L'Ec- 
lectisme au Doute," L 'Architecture Vi- 
vante (1929), p. 18. 

4. Ibid., p. 28. 

5. Ibid., p. 30. 

6. Ibid., p. 30. 

Deborah Nevitis is an art historian who 
writes and curates exhibitions in New York 
City. She is currently engaged in research on 
popular attitudes toward gardening. 

Badovici: Do you not fear that this return 
to primary forms, that this systematic 
simplification which seems to be a law of 
modern art, will result in an art and es- 
pecially an architecture that will be fixed 
in a purely theoretical and too intellectual 
research to satisfy both the needs of our 
minds and those of our bodies? The hu- 
man personality is not only intellectual. 
And when one sees these large buildings 
of simple geometric shapes and even more 
these interiors where everything answers 
to a rigid and cold calculation, one asks if 
man could be content to live there. 

Gray: You are right. This return to basic 
geometric forms, this rejection of all else, 
responds to certain needs. It was neces- 
sary to free oneself of an oppressive sys- 
tem to attain freedom. But this intellectual 
coldness which we have arrived at and 
which interprets only too well the hard 
laws of modern machinery can only be a 
temporary phenomenon. What is needed 
is the rediscovery of the human well be- 
low the material surface and the pathos of 
this modern life which up to now has been 
interpreted only through a sort of alge- 
braic language of forms. 

What pathos are you referring to? 

The kind of pathos which is inseparable 
from all real life. 

You mean bring emotion back? 

Yes, a purified emotion which can be ex- 
pressed in a thousand ways. There is no 
need to return to the old complicated style 
of the previous time; sometimes a beauti- 
ful material alone, designed with sincere 
simplicity, is itself enough. It is necessary 
to create an ideal which can satisfy a uni- 
versal modern conscience while always 
keeping in view the joys of the individual 
and refraining from extremist attitudes. 



Thus you are advocating a return to feel- 
ings, to emotion. 

Yes, but once again, an emotion which 
has been purified by knowledge, enhanced 
by ideas, and which does not exclude the 
knowledge and appreciation of scientific 
advances. One should only require that 
artists be of their own time. 

But how does one create the expression of 
an era and especially an era like ours, so 
full of contradiction, where the past has 
an influence in many ways and in which 
there are so many extreme points of view? 

All works of art are symbolic. They in- 
terpret, they suggest the essential idea 
more than they literally represent it. The 
artist must find in this multitude of contra- 
dictory attitudes those which are the real 
intellectual and emotional underpinnings 
of the individual and the society at once. 

For you, then, the architect must have a 
universal outlook? 

Almost! But what is essential is that the 
architect understand the meaning of each 
thing and that the architect know how to 
be simple and sane, while not neglecting 
any means of expression. The most di- 
verse types of materials are useful to ex- 
press what the architect wishes of contem- 
porary life. New materials, ludicrously 
employed, are as important in this as is 
architectural structure strictly speaking. 

There is a word which you have not used 
but which your entire discussion reminds 
me of: it is unity. Because it is quite evi- 
dent that this diversity of the elements of 
inspiration, as well as the diversity of the 
elements of realization, will result in noth- 
ing but chaotic disorder if the architect 
does not turn them all, and in an expres- 
sive way, toward a specific aim. 

In fact there is no architectural creation, 
strictly speaking, which is without organ- 
ic unity. But while that unity used to be 
confined only to the surface, now that 
unity has to exist as an overall factor en- 
compassing even the smallest details. 

But a unity as systematic as you suggest, 
would it be able to accommodate the di- 
versity which you also spoke of just now? 

Yes, clearly. It is through the understand- 
ing of the individual's desires and passions 
and tastes that one best interprets the life 
of the society and the collective order. Art 
is based on habits, but not on passing or, 
more precisely, artificial tastes which cre- 
ate a fashion. It is necessary to give to the 
work of art the form that best responds to 
the spontaneous gesture, or the instinctive 
reflex that corresponds to its use. 

Do you not fear, then, that technological 
concerns will encroach on spirituality? 

Modern designers have exaggerated the 
technological side. The public has already- 
resisted these exaggerations. These ex- 
cesses are exemplified by putting camping 
furniture, American chairs, and collaps- 
ible easy chairs in a room in the home 
designated for repose or work. Intimacy is 
gone, atmosphere is gone. One simplifies 
to the extreme. Simplicity is not simplifi- 
cation and especially not simplification 
done with crudity. Formulas are nothing; 
life is everything. And life is mind and 
heart at the same time. 

In sum you react against the formulas 
which are the fashion of the moment and 
take a step backward. 

No, on the contrary, I want to develop 
these formulas and push them to the point 
at which they are in contact with life. I 
want to enrich them; I want to put reality 
within their abstraction. Art is not in the 
expression of abstract relationships; it 
must also make concrete connection with 
and express the most private needs of spir- 
itual life. Yet to sustain creativity, real 
scientific experimentation is necessary. 

You feel that architecture should be like a 
symphony in which all forms of the inner 
life are expressed. 

Exactly. Dream and action are equally im- 
portant in architecture. 

It is true that many of the works of the 
avant-garde are a little cold, but is it not 
because we are still under the influence of 
the recent past? And are not the principles 
of hygiene alone a little responsible for 
this coldness which shocks us? 

Yes! We will die of hygiene! Hygiene is 
misunderstood. Because hygiene does not 
exclude comfort of action. No, the avant- 
garde is intoxicated by the machine aes- 
thetic. But the machine aesthetic is not 
everything. The world is full of living al- 
lusions, of living symmetry, difficult to 
discover but real. Their intense intellectu- 
alism wants to suppress that which is mar- 
velous in life, as their concern with a mis- 
understood hygiene makes hygiene un- 
bearable. Their desire for rigid precision 
makes them neglect the beauty of all these 
forms: discs, cylinders, lines which undu- 
late or zigzag, elliptical lines which are 
like straight lines in movement. Their 
architecture is without soul. 

The architects of today scarcely talk of 
anything but standardization and ration- 
alism. Can you explain to me what mean- 
ing they give these words which I often 
hear but whose meaning I can hardly 
associate with architecture? 

It is always the same thing. Technology i s 
the primary occupation. One forgets the 
ends while trying to think of the means. 
Standardization and rationalization are 
excellent ways to reduce the cost price; if 
we are not careful, this will continue to 
the point where we have buildings which 
are even more lacking in soul and individ- 
uality than those we already have now. 
We are in need of an ideal for architecture 
more than a style. But for a certain model 
for architecture to have real value, it is 
necessary that it correspond to a concep- 
tion of architecture which is generally ac- 
cepted, to a collective taste, to an ideal. 

But how can we arrive at such a model 
for architecture if buildings are construct- 
ed without the least regard for an individ- 
ual's need to have the place where he lives 
reflect his particular personality and 
tastes? How can architects who are con- 
cerned with nothing but the lowest cost 
satisfy the public taste and please the elite? 
Moreover, it appears to me inevitable that 
this system of research into ideal patterns 
for architecture will result in an extreme 
simplification and consequently in ideas 
which are as poor as they are limited. 

The search for the building type corres- 
ponds clearly to the economic circum- 
stances which no one alone can remedy. 

Without a doubt. But again it is not neces- 
sary to present the building type as an 
ideal which is the result of nothing but an 
unfortunate circumstance. 

I believe that the majority of people 
misunderstand the meaning of this word 
type. For them type is synonymous with 
design simplified to the extreme which is 
intended for mass production. But I un- 
derstand it otherwise. A house type is a 
house whose construction has been real- 
ized according to the best technical and 
the least costly methods and in which the 
design is created for a specific situation 
with the most perfection. That is to say, it 
is like a model which is intended not to be 
reproduced over and over but which is 
used as an inspiration for the construction 
of other houses. 

"Excerpted from "De 1'Eclectisme au Doute," 
L 'Architecture Vivante (1929), pp. 17-21. 
Translation by Deborah F. Nevins. 





Deborah Dietsch 

any of the most significant con- 
tributions from the formative 
years of the modern movement 
were the result of male and fe- 
male design partnerships: Charlotte Per- 
riand and Le Corbusier, Nelly and Theo 
Van Doesburg, Vavara Stepanova and 
Alexander Rodchenko, Sonia and Robert 
Delaunay, Sophie Taeuber and Jean Arp. 
Generally, however, it is the male designer 
who is given credit. He is presumed to be 
the dominant personality, while the wom- 
an is relegated to the shadows as an un- 
defined, assimilating, albeit supportive, 
partner. This presumption is clearly re- 
futed by a close examination of the work 
of Lilly Reich. She is an architect and de- 
signer of furniture, interiors, and exhibi- 
tions in her own right, even though her 
work has been categorized primarily 
through her collaboration with Mies van 
der Rohe in the late 1920s and early 1930s. 
While much of the documentation con- 
cerning her work is currently inaccessible 1 
or has been destroyed, her unique ap- 
proach to design can be identified by look- 
ing at her participation in the exhibitions 
of 1927 in Stuttgart and Berlin, 1929 in 
Barcelona, and 1931 in Berlin. 

Born in 1885 to a factory-owning 

family in Berlin, Reich received her formal 
artistic training, beginning in 1908, at the 
Weiner Werkstatten under Josef Hoffman. 
Although it is not clear whether she spe- 
cialized in any particular medium, the 
workshop's emphasis on rich and precious 
materials in its designs for utilitarian ob- 
jects and its use of geometric forms seem 
to have influenced her later work. Follow- 
ing her apprenticeship, Reich returned to 
Germany and joined the Deutsche Werk- 
bund at its outset. Both the German and 
Vienna workshops seem to have been 
closely allied during these early years; 
Hoffman was one of the founding mem- 
bers of the German workshop. 

One of Reich's designs for a shop win- 
dow display was published in the Werk- 
bund yearbook of 1913. Ludwig Glaeser 
describes Reich's first published design as 
a "precise geometric arrangement" with 
"repetitive use of display objects. . .con- 
tainers and tools of the pharmacist's 
trade," 2 an approach which he attributes 
to her training at the Weiner Werkstatten. 
It should be noted, however, that this 
project was for a display of industrial 
products and not of household, handi- 
crafted objects; it was thus more closely 
allied to that faction of the Deutsche 

Werkbund which advocated manufac- 
tured, standardized components in their 
designs than to the more 19th-century arts 
and crafts tradition of the Vienna work- 

From 1924 to 1927 Lilly Reich directed 
an annual Werkbund exhibition at the 
Frankfurt fair. During this time she "called 
for the nomination of Mies van der Rohe" 
as director. 3 This resulted in the first col- 
laboration between Reich and Mies, al- 
though the exact division of effort be- 
tween the two architects is unclear. This 
initial collaboration was followed by their 
joint participation in the Weissenhof ex- 
hibition in Stuttgart in July 1927, which 
Mies directed as the Werkbund's vice- 
president. Reich had her own individual 
model rooms within the Mies-designed 
apartment block. Whether she also con- 
tributed to the actual architectural design 
of the block is not evident. It was in these 
interiors that the cantilevered tubular steel 
chair— the so-called MR chair— made its 
first public appearance, along with a 
tubular steel stool and a table with a cir- 
cular glass top and crossed U-shaped sup- 
ports. Whether these furniture designs can 
be solely attributed to Mies is question- 
able, since Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer, 


Lilly Reich with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 

Lilly Reich, Velvet and Silk Cafe for Mode der Dame Exhibit, Berlin, September 1927. 

© 1981 Deborah Dietsch 


and others had produced similar chair and 
table designs by 1926. What Mies seems 
to have accomplished was to refine the 
general prototypes of the period by stream- 
lining the tubular supports so that the 
joints between the various elements of leg, 
back, and seat melded into one continu- 
ous unit. And no doubt Reich assisted in 
these refinements. 

For the Berlin Building Exhibition of 
1931 Reich designed a lounge chair with a 
continuous cushion, based on Mies's can- 
tilevered chair design, along with a caned 
version. The stool shown at the Weissen- 
hof exhibition was also produced in a 
caned version with dark tubular supports 
(appearing much closer to Stam's 1926 
version). This is an indication of Reich's 
involvement with the original designs. 
One source attributes the choice of seat- 
ing materials — leathers, velvet, and can- 
ing—to Reich." She may also have been 
been familiar with the club chair designs 
of Hoffman and Loos from her training at 
the Weiner Werkstatten, and thus encour- 
aged Mies to adopt a similar abstracting 
attitude toward furniture design. Certain- 
ly it is no coincidence that during his ten- 
year collaboration with Reich from 1927 
to 1937, Mies produced all his major fur- 
niture designs — the Barcelona pieces of 
1929, the Tugendhat chair of 1929-30, 
the Brno chair types of the 1930s. These 
served as his chief means of financial sup- 
port at this time. 

Another facet of the Stuttgart exhibi- 
tion on which both architects collabo- 
rated was a display for the glass industry. 
Photographs reveal a stark interior: three 
white and black leather armchairs and a 
rosewood table grouped together on a 
black and white linoleum floor, surround- 
ed by large panels of etched, clear and 
gray opaque glass. Glass was employed in 
a similar manner for the silk exhibit in the 
German sec'.: on of the International Expo- 
sition in Barcelona of 1929. In this exhibit, 
Reich draped swags of silk in a free man- 
ner over the glass panels, which served as 
invisible supports. The silk thus dominat- 
ed as the primary material — its curves, 
colors, and texture contrasting with the 
neutral, crystalline background of glass. 

The most dramatic industrial exhibit, 
exemplifying Reich's attitude toward 
design, is the Velvet and Silk Cafe for 
the Mode der Dame Exhibit of Septem- 
ber 1927 in Berlin. Instead of using back- 
drops on which to display the fabrics, 
yards of silk and velvet were draped over 
free-standing curved and straight tubular 
supports. The material thus acted simulta- 
neously as space divider for the various 
compartments of the cafe, backdrop for 
the seating, and exhibited product. The 
only external reference identifying the 
subject matter of the exhibit was the logo 
"seide" (silk), which simply hung over the 
entire display in large letters. The colors 
of the fabrics — orange, red and black vel- 

vet; gold, silver, black and lemon-yellow 
silk — added another subtly sensuous di- 
mension to the space, a contrast to the 
tubular steel Weissenhof tables and chairs. 

Lilly Reich has been credited with in- 
fluencing Mies's use of color in his in- 
teriors, a claim which has probably been 
overemphasized since color was used fre- 
quently in both the interiors and exteriors 
of architecture of this period. 5 Due to 
the black and white photography which 
documents much of the architecture, how- 
ever, a comprehensive understanding of 
the color range used is not possible. More 
fundamentally influential on Mies's work 
was Reich's use of panels — whether fabric 
or glass— as space-dividing architectonic 
elements in her exhibition designs. The 
curved, striped onyx wall in Mies's 1930 
Tugendhat house, for example, is direct- 
ly linked to Reich's curved fabric "murals" 
of the Silk and Velvet Cafe, 6 and his ob- 
session with glass walls seems to have 
been derived from the use of glass in the 
early Weissenhof exhibit. 

The Berlin Building Exhibition of 1931 
further established Reich as an autono- 
mous designer. Continuing the 19th- 
century tradition of using exhibitions to 
publicize the latest trends in architecture, 
the Berlin Building Exhibition displayed 
"every material, every method, every 
theory that had to do with building." 7 The 
"Hall of the Dwelling of Our Times" 
featured a myriad of housing types, in- 

Berlin Building Exhibition, 1931. Left Top: Plan of house by Lilly Reich. Left Middle: View of 
houses by Reich and Mies van der Rohe joined by wall. Left Bottom: Plan of house by Mies van 
der Rohe. Below: White bedroom in Reich's house. 




3 •%-. 


fa, , o a 



eluding a multi-unit apartment block, a 
duplex apartment block, and several one- 
story houses. A gallery encircled this hall, 
under which Gropius constructed a com- 
mon room for an apartment block and 
Breuer placed his house designed for a 
sportsman. Although Mies was the of- 
ficially appointed director of the exhibi- 
tion, Reich played a prominent role as 
designer of the industrial exhibits, which 
occupied the entire gallery level. She also 
designed several apartment units and a 
one-story house. The latter, along with 
Mies's adjacent residence, became the 
focal point of the exhibition. Although 
connected by a wall, forming a shared 
courtyard, the two houses were not con- 
ceived as a unified composition. The 
physical connection between them seems 
to have been made as a gesture toward 
forming a communal space, to counter the 
criticism that these single-story detached 
dwellings, each to be occupied by two 
people (presumably husband and wife), 
were solitary luxuries. They inevitably 
stood in contrast to the more economic 
and functionally efficient apartment units 
located directly behind them. 

The differences between the designs of 
Reich and Mies are summarized in the 
plans of the houses. Mies's plan combined 
aspects of the Barcelona Pavilion with 
rounded forms from the Tugendhat House 
into his characteristic composition of 
interposed sliding planes. Reich's design, 
on the other hand, was divided into dis- 

I u. rCh 4snflta>f 




!i o 

Lilly Reich, Berlin Building Exhibition, 1931 . 
Top: Plan of linear apartment. Middle: 
Cooking cabinet in linear apartment. Bot- 
tom: Exhibit of building materials. 

tinct functional quadrants of entry, bed- 
rooms, living spaces, and service areas. 
The wall connecting the two houses, which 
extended into the interior, separated the 
private from the more public realms of the 
house. In Mies's plan, however, this wall 
was not as crucial to the functional divi- 
sion of the house, being limited in the in- 
terior to a truncated plane separating the 
dining nook from the service area be- 
hind it. 

The furniture in Reich's interior was 
primarily from the Bauhaus workshops at 
Halle, 8 although many pieces were of her 
own design. Particularly dramatic was the 
white bedroom, which was photographed 
by Philip Johnson and Henry Russell 
Hitchcock as an illustration to The Inter- 
national Style for its "luxurious and femi- 
nine character achieved by combination 
of white materials of various textures."' 
The "white materials" included the velvet 
lounge chair, the deep pile rug, and the 
quilted bedcover. These varoius soft tex- 
tures contrasted with the stark chrome 
and glass of the Reich-designed tables in 
the room. More multipurpose than "femi- 
nine," the bed could be used as a couch, 
the tables as desks, and the whole room 
easily rearranged to accommodate any 
number of activities. The living room also 
featured this multipurpose quality. 
Groups of tables and chairs could be 
arranged for study or relaxation; the only 
fixed element was a built-in bookcase 
along one wall. The dining room con- 
tained chairs designed by Reich which 
combined aspects of Mies's Weissenhof 
lounge chair and Tugendhat chairs, but 
featured backs contoured to the body, 
unlike the idealized continuous lines of 
Mies's chairs. The upholstered seats and 
backs of these chairs were supported by 
tubular steel runners, undoubtedly influ- 
encing Mies's 1931-35 Brno chair versions 
and later bentwood furniture designs. 10 
Other interior designs by Reich in the 
exhibition included two apartment units 
within the larger block designed by the 
Munich architects Vorhoelzer, Wieder- 
anders, and Schmidt. The simple, func- 
tional organization clearly distinguished 
her design from the apartments designed 
by Mies, Albers, and several other Berlin 
architects, all of whom tended to di- 
vide their units into distinct rooms. With 
the smallest square footage in the block, 
both of Reich's apartments— a studio of 
115 square feet and a one-bedroom unit 
of 175 square feet— featured a linear lay- 
out with strip windows along one wall, 
thus giving the living room and bed- 
room equal sun exposure. The spaces 
for work, recreation, and meals were 
separated by the placement of furniture 
across the narrow space. With the excep- 
tion of a tubular steel bed by Erwin Gut- 
kind and the Murphy beds in the apart- 
ment by Carl Fiesen, Reich's use of tubular 

steel and convertible furnishings appeared 
far more innovative than the more tra- 
ditional wooden furniture of the other 
apartment interiors. Like her single-story 
house, her apartments were furnished 
with built-in bookshelves, a leather- 
covered desk with tubular steel supports, 
a couch-bed, and Weissenhof side and 
lounge chairs. 11 The most innovative fea- 
ture of her apartment units was a "cook- 
ing cabinet." When closed, it appeared 
an ordinary storage cabinet, 12 but when 
opened, it supplied the occupant with a 
complete kitchen — sink, shelves, and 
cooking facilities. In its extreme economy, 
it summarized the "Frankfurter Kuche" — 
the standardized built-in kitchens de- 
signed by Ernst May in his Praunheim 
Housing Estates. 

Above these residential projects was 
the gallery containing the exhibit of build- 
ing products also designed by Reich. 
Comprised mainly of interior finishing 
materials, the composition of the exhibi- 
tion, as in her earlier designs for the Mode 
der Dame exhibit, the Barcelona silk ex- 
hibit, and the Stuttgart glass exhibit, was 
established through the materials them- 
selves. Grouped according to type, the 
materials and the products included mar- 
ble, timber and veneers, mirrors, paint, 
paper, wallpaper, textiles, assorted fur- 
niture, carpets, and clocks. Photographs 
of the exhibition reveal the smaller ob- 
jects, such as the clocks, displayed in 
simple glass cases, with the larger materi- 
als placed on the gallery floor. Product 
labeling was limited to simple lettering, 
identifying the name of the materials, the 
supplier, and location of manufacture. 
Like Reich's earlier projects, this exhibit 
derived its power from the minimal sim- 
plicity and repetition of the raw materials 
displayed, rather than from an external 
framework of superfluous typographical 
explanation or product packaging. 

What becomes clear from assessing 
Reich's work is her overall drive toward a 
minimal aesthetic and the constancy of 
this approach in all levels of her work, 
whether in the design of interiors or whole 
buildings. In collaborating with Mies, 
Reich was the more austere of the two: 
while his credo became "less is more," 
hers seems to have remained "even less 
is more." Ultimately Mies's abstraction 
never escaped the confines of tradition. 
This is especially apparent in his later 
projects. The buildings at IIT, for exam- 
ple, feature centralized symmetrical plans, 
a move away from his earlier use of 
sliding planar elements and notions of 
divided and interlocked spaces. His furni- 
ture and interior designs were also linked 
to more conventional prototypes than 
were the multifunctional objects of Reich's 
designs. The living room of his house at 
the Berlin Building Exhibition, for in- 
stance, displayed a traditional wing chair, 



a chair type that appears again in draw- 
ings for the Hubbe House project of 1935. 
Most of his own furniture designs were 
based on historical prototypes. The Bar- 
celona furniture with its cross-supports 
was derived from medieval stools and 
chairs, for example. His couch-bed of 
1930, with its hierarchy of distinct ele- 
ments — legs, bolster, tufted upholstery — 
appears very conventional in contrast to 
Reich's bed of the same year. Fashioned 
out of continuous steel tubing, her design 
consisted of two frames: one defined the 
top of the bed with identical "headrest" 
and "footboard," the other (the same 
frame overturned) formed the supports. 
The two frames were strapped together 
with leather to support the mattress. In 
this use of repeated, reversible units, her 
design did not recall the specificity of 
precedent inherent in Mies's designs, and 
thus could be more easily envisioned as a 
couch orbed. 

Reich's approach to an open plan for 
dividing her house and apartment proj- 
ects was very different from that of Mies. 
Unlike Mies, who used sliding planar 
elements to create a hierarchy of inter- 
posed spaces, Reich employed equal func- 
tional divisions within a linear progres- 
sion. The living room of her house, for ex- 
ample, was divided by furniture grouped 
into areas for conversation and study. 
Similarly, her apartment was divided 
across its narrow dimension into equal 
areas for rest, study, and meals. The fur- 
niture could be rearranged to change these 
spatial divisions or to integrate the room 
as a whole. Mies's walls, although not es- 
tablishing distinct rooms, formed hierar- 
chical arrangements of main and subsidi- 
ary spaces that could only house fixed 
functions. His living room space, for ex- 
ample, could not serve as a more minor 
dining area because of its primal place- 
ment within the formal composition of 
the house. 

After Mies became director of the Bau- 
haus in 1930, he appointed Lilly Reich 
head of the weaving workshop in 1932. 
This appointment seems to have been 
made as a token gesture. It was a post 
traditionally held by a woman 13 — even 
though Reich was not a weaver. While 
her use of textiles was always predicated 
on their material nature, as was her use 
of glass or steel, she was never involved 
in the actual production of textiles or 
interested in the craft of weaving. Al- 
though she did head a seminar on interi- 
or design, she was not involved in the 
Bauhaus architectural courses or the ex- 
hibit design workshop. The latter, head- 
ed by Joost Schmidt, remained linked 
to printing and typography, and em- 
ployed an additive, constructivist aesthet- 
ic, antithetical to Reich's minimalism and 
reliance on the display of the materials 
themselves as a formal solution. Any in- 

fluence or new direction she might have 
had within the Bauhaus curriculum was 
curtailed by its closing in 1933. 

Little is known about Reich after the 
closing of the Bauhaus and Nazi seizure of 
power until her death in Berlin in 1947. 
The only recorded work from this period 
is a design for neon sockets for the Sie- 
mens Company in 1946, indicating that 
she may have been involved with indus- 
trial design in the 1940s. Despite her some- 
what obscure reputation to date, Reich's 
design ideas have resurfaced in current 
architectural design. Her notion of layer- 
ing different textures and materials within 
a monochromatic color scheme is widely 
used in contemporary interior design. 
And her approach to exhibition design, 
allowing the objects themselves to com- 
pose and dominate the display, has be- 
come standard display practice. Two re- 
cent examples are the draped fabrics used 
by Venturi in his Knoll showroom design 
and by Michael Graves in the Sunar show- 
rooms. More importantly, Reich remains 
a key figure in our needed reassessment of 
the history of the modern movement. Like 
Eileen Gray and Pierre Chareau, Lilly 
Reich maintained a constant dialogue be- 
tween sensuous materials and machine- 
made elements, whether applied on the 
large or small scale. Her singular vision 
and her practice of using seemingly con- 
tradictory materials and textures within a 
reductivist framework counter the cur- 
rent post-modern view of the Internation- 
al Style as a monolithic, homogeneous 
style devoid of subtlety and nuance. 

1. The Mies van der Rohe Archive in the 
Museum of Modern Art in New York 
City includes material on Lilly Reich. Up 
to now, cataloging this material has been 
given lowest priority. The museum's 
policy of denying access to uncataloged 
matter limited the author to published 

2. Ludwig Glaeser, Ludwig Mies van der 
Rohe (New York: Museum of Modern 
Art, 1977), p. 10. 

3. Fifty Years of the Bauhaus (London: 
Royal Academy of Arts, 1968). 

4. Hans Wingler, in The Bauhaus (Cam- 
bridge: MIT Press, 1969), directly attri- 
butes the caning and rolled cushions of 
the Weissenhof chairs to Reich (p. 534). 

5. May's Frankfurt housing and Le Corbu- 
sier's Villa Savoye, for example. 

6. Christian Zervos, in his 1928 Cahiers 
D'Art article, states: "The effect was one 
of the most ravishing, through the har- 
mony of the fabrics and movement of 
mural surfaces." 

7. Philip Johnson, "The Berlin Building Ex- 
position of 1931," T-Square (1932). (Re- 
printed in Oppositions [Jan. 1974].) 

8. From an interview with Philip Johnson 
(March 7, 1980). 

9. Philip Johnson and Henry Russell Hitch- 
cock, The International Style (New 
York: Norton, 1966). 

10. In 1935 Mies was granted a patent for a 

runner chair support which he later 
transferred to Reich, indicating she may 
have been the true author of the design. 

11. Philip Johnson, in decorating his New 
York apartment in 1930, chose to furnish 
it with this desk and bookcase, as well as 
with straw mat flooring and silk curtains 
designed by Reich. 

12. Its design appears similar to a roll-front 
cabinet by S. Guttman, in an advertise- 
ment featured in Die Form (Feb. 1931). 

13. Reich's predecessors included Gunta 
Stozl, who was given the title "junior 
master" although she headed the work- 
shop after Georg Muche's resignation 
from 1927 to 1931, and Anni Albers, 
who was acting head from 1931 to 1932. 

Deborah Dietsch, a graduate student of ar- 
chitecture at Columbia and an architectural 
critic, has published regularly in Skyline and 
is co-editor of the Centennial issue of Precis. 



The Transformation of Women's Recreational Needs in 
he Late Nineteenth-Century City Galen Cranz 

n the early 1880s, Senator Sharon 
from California willed $50,000 to 
the commissioners of San Francisco's 
Golden Gate Park for the creation of 
monumental entrance arches bearing his 
name. The commissioners made a plea to 
Sharon's heirs, as formal marble arches 
were not in keeping with their vision of 
the park. Instead, they persuaded the 
heirs to build the Children's Quarter, con- 
sisting of a playground space and an in- 
formal sandstone building. This area was 
exclusively for children and their mothers. 
The successful change in the interpre- 
tation of the Sharon bequest occurred at 
one of several pivotal points in American 
park history. This abrupt about-face re- 
flected a larger shift in planners' ideologies 
as they moved from one model of the 
ideal park to another. The shifting ideals 
entailed new strategies about how best to 
deploy women in the ongoing effort to 
curtail urban problems, as well as certain 
attitudes about how women should live in 
cities. Specifically, the redefinition of the 
gift from memorial arches to children's 
building represents the transition from the 
pleasure garden (1850-1900) to the reform 
park (1900-1930). 

The pleasure garden was conceived as 
an antidote to the ills of the rapidly in- 
dustrializing city. It was characterized by 
a curving picturesque landscape and an 
emphasis on mental refreshment. Stand- 
ards of order for the physical environment 
and for social intercourse (assumed to be 
set mainly by women) would help to es- 
tablish white, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon 
Protestant values for the diverse urban 
population of ethnic and rural immi- 
grants. Women's presence in the pleasure 
garden park together with their husbands 
and children would help stabilize the fam- 
ily unit, which was seen as threatened by 
alcoholism, prostitution, commercial en- 
tertainment, and boarding-house life. 

In contrast, the reform park accepted 
industrial life and attempted to rationalize 
it by locating recreation near working- 
class neighborhoods. Physical exercise, 
supervision, and organization were 
stressed as the significance of fine art and 
nature appreciation diminished. For the 
first time sex and age segregation were 
institutionalized, dramatically reversing 
the prior emphasis on families using parks 
as a group. Segregation led easily to sex- 
role stereotyping and unequal treatment 

First municipal playground in U.S. (Note the two slides ensuring separation of the sexes. 

of boys and girls. The attempt to solve the 
problem of juvenile delinquency also 
caused more attention to be focused on 

The pleasure garden and the reform 
park were followed by the recreation fa- 
cility (1930-1965) and the open space sys- 
tem (1965-present). All four models had 
special implications for women's safety. 
In the pleasure garden, women were pro- 
tected by being accompanied by men. In 
the reform park, safety was ensured by 
separating women from men. The recrea- 
tion facility provided safety through po- 
lice surveillance and elimination of shrub- 
bery. In the open space system, women 
could only be guaranteed safety if they 
did not go to parks at all, went only on 
busy days, or went prepared to defend 
themselves with a martial art. In the Chil- 
dren's Quarter, we see the emerging re- 
form park assumptions about women's 
safety via segregation in the context of a 
park based on the older ideal of the pleas- 
ure garden, with its concept of family use. 

The idea for the Children's Quarter 
came from William Hammond Hall, 
Golden Gate Park's first designer, whose 
overall plan was published in the First Bi- 
ennial Report in 1871 and slightly ex- 
panded in 1875. He classified the "prob- 
able frequenters of the park" into four 
types, each of which merited a major 
building. A manor house, large and ele- 
gant, would serve adults who demanded a 
first-class reception. The hostelry and race 
track were for "gentlemen who wish to 

speed their horses." The cafe would cater 
to "large picnic parties, and very many 
persons who would approach the park on 
foot, or by public conveyance" — that is, 
the working class. The Children's Quar- 
ter, including a dairy and a house of re- 
freshment and shelter, was intended for 
"ladies with their families, children in the 
charge of nurses and guardians, boys and 
girls, and ladies who may wish to enjoy 
themselves in a homelike manner." Hall 
physically separated this quarter from the 
rest of the park so that it "should not pre- 
sent any particular attention except to the 
children and those who wish to have a 
quiet time." 

By the time of Sharon's bequest, Gold- 
en Gate Park already had a casino and 
speed track, fulfilling Hall's plans in part. 
The major lack was an informal refresh- 
ment place for women and children. The 
park commissioners reported that they 
themselves managed to convince the heirs 
to change Sharon's will. The heirs appar- 
ently recognized and appreciated the merit 
of the proposed change, which came from 
an existing prospectus and was consistent 
with the new regard for children's needs. 
In Hall's original master plan, the Chil- 
dren's Quarter had the lowest priority; it 
would not have been built without Shar- 
on's donation. 

In 1885 the commissioners authorized 
the firm of Percy and Hamilton to design 
and construct the Sharon Children's 
Quarter, which officially opened in Dec- 
ember 1888. The playground and building 

© 1981 Galen Cr, 


were sked in the southeast corner of the 
park, which provided both easy access 
and visual privacy. The style of the build- 
ing was Richardsonian Romanesque: three 
stories, with gables, turrets, asymmetrical 
plan, and rough-faced San Jose sandstone 
laid in broken courses. The siting, design, 
and styling expressed the ideals of infor- 
mality, domesticity, simplicity, and natu- 

The meaning of this choice is best 
understood in the context of the competi- 
tion among proponents of three different 
architectural styles for park buildings at 
the time. Designers of the pleasure garden, 
such as Golden Gate Park, originally ad- 
vocated either rustic or Victorian Gothic 
architecture. Within a few years park ad- 
ministrators felt that these styles looked 
too insubstantial for public buildings, and 
they turned to the Richardsonian Roman- 
esque for its handsome, massive solidity 
which at the same time was unpretentious 
and did not dominate the surrounding 
naturalistic landscape. By the 1880s 
donors had started to prefer the more im- 
posing neoclassical style for their memori- 
als. Senator Sharon was part of the latter 
group, which favored formal, symmetri- 
cal, white, exotic, ornate, highly visible 
public architecture. 

The stylistic issues reflected alignments 
with new attitudes toward public spend- 
ing (public outlays should look enduring), 
philanthropy (donors should get visible 
recognition), and the city itself (the City 
Beautiful movement acclaimed the order 
of neoclassical plans and buildings). Shar- 
on's proposed memorial gate would not 
have been an utterly radical departure 
from the aesthetics of the late pleasure 
garden model, for its advocates increas- 
ingly accepted neoclassical buildings and 
had always preferred a perimeter wall 
with gates to control access to the park. 
Yet what is most significant about the 
Children's Quarter is not its stylistic mod- 
esty but the type of building per se; it 
represented a shift in park use and recrea- 
tion philosophy. Moreover, because the 
Children's Quarter was created before the 
reform park was clearly defined as a mod- 
el, the commissioners had no precedent 
to guide them. They evolved a new set of 
policies on their own and — not surprising- 
ly — inconsistencies and contradictions 

The chief tenets of the reform park 
were small size, location within working- 
class tenement districts, subservience of 
landscape to architecture, formal rather 
than informal ground plans, emphasis on 
organization rather than spontaneity, and 
sex and age segregation rather than the 
use of parks by "organic, natural" groups 
such as families and church congrega- 
tions. The theoretical justification for sex 
and age segregation came from develop- 
mental theory: the biopsychosocial needs 




The Sharon Building — floor plans. 

of sixteen-year-old boys differed from 
those of seven-year-old boys, and those of 
fourteen-year-old girls differed from both. 
Accordingly, designers created separate 
gymnasiums, showers, and playgrounds, 
as well as apparatus of appropriate sizes, 
adapted to each group's "dominant inter- 
ests." Whenever a facility had to be 
shared, supervisors divided the days or 
hours between males and females. This 
segregation implied a bilateral symmetry, 
which designers used to organize the 
ground plans formally around an axis — 
the antithesis of the informal curves and 
intentionally ambiguous layout of the 
pleasure garden. 

The intellectual foundation of the 
Sharon Building included both pleasure 
garden premises and reform park ideals. It 
was located within Golden Gate Park, an 
existing pleasure garden, rather than in 
the working-class Mission District. Due to 
subtle siting, landscaping remained domi- 
nant and informality was retained. Chil- 
dren's play remained spontaneous because 
parental supervision preempted an organ- 
ized program of activity. The building 
was not internally divided into male and 
female areas; instead, the entire site was 
off-limits to older boys or men. While 
planners adopted the reform park attitude 
toward serving children as a distinct user 
group, they did not fully realize the impli- 
cations. Reaching the city children, es- 
pecially children of working-class parents, 
would require some consideration that 
they would not all be able to come with 
their own guardians. Hiring play super- 
visors is the necessary consequence of at- 
tempting to serve children whose parents 
are at work. Thus the Children's Quarter 
was designed with mixed premises: parent- 
child supervision, on the one hand, and a 
perception of children and women as hav- 
ing needs distinct from those of the family, 
on the other. 

On the ground floor of the building 
children could buy snacks and wholesome 

refreshments in a "dairy" adjacent to their 
playground. The second floor was reached 
by a ramp from the ground, which 
wrapped around the southern and eastern 
facades of the building and turned into a 
viewing gallery, where adults could sit 
and drink coffee. Children were super- 
vised by their own parent or nurse; no 
day-care ratios of ten to one here! Hence, 
the building, overlooking the playground, 
had to accommodate large numbers of 
adults. On the veranda they could be in 
the company of one another, take refresh- 
ment, and still have direct visual access to 
their charges. The building enclosed pri- 
vate rooms for nursing. A married couple 
lived under the peaked roof, on the third 
floor, available 24 hours a day for as- 

The playground attached to the Chil- 
dren's Quarter was equipped with merry- 
go-round, live donkey and goat rides, 
swings, seesaws, slides, springboards, and 
maypoles. The city fathers intended these 
facilities for wholesome recreation to fos- 
ter moral and physical development in the 
city's children. In 1888 the program for 
the opening ceremonies expressed both an 
instrumental attitude toward recreation 
and the new idea that children were a user 
group in their own right: "It is believed, 
and earnestly hoped by the Commission- 
ers, that many hundreds of children will 
be taken from our streets, and with the 
facilities now afforded them for moral 
and healthful recreation, will grow up to 
be better men and women." 

Class harmony, a goal of so much 
park planning, was also a goal of the play- 
ground. According to the souvenir pro- 
grams, "when enjoying these grounds, 
under the friendly shelter of the house, 
there is no distinction between the off- 
spring of the most lowly and the descend- 
ants of the most wealthy and influential." 
However, the dairy concession and the 
rides did cost money, which limited parti- 
cipation to those who could afford them. 





Partial solutions to this problem were to 
institutionalize one "free day" per year 
(subsidized by the park commission and 
the San Francisco Examiner) and to lower 
fares from a nickel per ride to two rides 
for a nickel. 

The Sharon Building was to be only 
for mothers and their children, but this 
careful attempt to provide them with a 
safe and respectable environment had 
some consequences not foreseen by those 
who held pleasure garden attitudes toward 
family use of the parks: it kept fathers 
from taking a direct role in the care and 
supervision of their children. One indig- 
nant father wrote to the editor of the 
Examiner complaining that he was driven 
away from the lawn surrounding the 
merry-go-round and the children's swings 
by an officer who insisted that the ground 
was for ladies and children. The father 
pointed out: 

That means that married men who have 
children at play in the ground must either 
get a lady to watch the little ones, or the 
man hides in the distance, or those men 
accompanying their wives may look at 
their family from the far road in order not 
to conflict with the Park Ordinance which 
reads, "This lawn reserved for ladies and 
children. " 

This man suggested that the sign be al- 
tered to read: "This lawn reserved for 
children and their guardians." However, 
since his views were exceptional, the park 
administration made no effort to include 
males in the supervision of children until 
well into the reform park era, when they 
were sometimes hired as play leaders. 

The sex-role stereotyping of the re- 
form park was anticipated in the provision 
of separate play equipment for boys and 
girls. Gymnastic equipment for the chil- 
dren's playground included a double slide, 
one for boys, the other for girls. Half the 
horses on the carousel had side-saddles. 
Even with these segregated arrangements, 

>■-*,' /■■ 



• £&• • •■"•- 


Adults on the balcony overlooking the playground (photographed after 1900 when men wt 
allowed in the building). 

little girls were better off than before since 
they "never had had an opportunity of 
running races with each other or playing 
with a skipping rope, or giving their mus- 
cles exercise, or their lungs a chance to 
expand, just for want of such a place as 

By 1893 newspapers took for granted 
that girls were the major users. In the use 
of swings, "Girls, as a matter of course, 
were in the largest majority." Nationwide, 
females of all ages used city parks more 
on their own and more actively than men 
had anticipated. Skating attracted women 
in winter climates, and on Golden Gate 
Park's Stowe Lake they went rowing more 
often than men did. In the 1880s young 
women everywhere began to play tennis, 
croquet, and basketball and to ride bicy- 
cles. Generally, women enjoyed active 
sports without the company of men; news- 
paper reporters covered this surprising 
turn of events with mockery and disbelief. 

Men have defined women's needs for 
recreation and the use of other public 
places, and women themselves have usu- 
ally accepted these definitions. However, 
perceived needs may not necessarily be 
the same as "real" needs. The assumption 
was, with the Sharon Building and other 
public places, that women needed a safe, 
protected, genteel setting, away from the 
raucous, dirty, loud, smelly, and chaotic 
environment of the 19th-century city and 
away from alcohol, swearing, and men. 
In reality, women were pursuing active 
sports on their own or with other women 
and girls. Accommodating these and other 
real needs of females might have meant a 
different kind of park programming. 

The Sharon Building represents a his- 
torical experiment, an attempt to accom- 
modate children and to create a safe place 
for women alone, in the context of a park 
conceived as an antidote to urban life. 
The Sharon Building was in most respects 
unique— an early and unresolved proto- 

type at the cusp of the pleasure garden 
and reform park eras. 

The reform park accepted and tried to 
rationalize industrial life and its division 
of labor by organizing users into discrete 
groups, using a rectilinear mode of spatial 
organizaton and institutionalizing age and 
sex segregation. The Sharon Building 
made gestures to the new ideal of sex seg- 
regation without abandoning the prior 
commitment to spontaneity, informality 
in plan, and "organic" social relations be- 
tween mother and child. It stands today, 
albeit fire-gutted, as a material expression 
of a transition in thought regarding the 
best way for women and children to live 
in cities. 


For a more expanded description of the four 
park models, see Galen Cranz, "The Chang- 
ing Roles of Urban Parks," Landscape, Vol. 
22. No. 3 (Summer 1978), pp. 9-18. Also see 
her article on "Women in Urban Parks" in 
the special issue of Signs on women in cities 
(April 1980). Another overview of park his- 
tory is Newton's Design on the Land (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard University Press, 1971). 
Some writings by the leading pleasure gar- 
den designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, have 
been collected by Olmsted and Kimball in 
Forty Years of Landscape Architecture (Cam- 
bridge: MIT Press, 1973). The development 
of the reform park in Chicago is fully chron- 
icled by Clarence Rainwater in The Play 
Movement in the United States (Chicago: 
Chicago University Press, 1922). The early 
annual reports of the San Francisco park 
commissioners are rare books, available in 
university libraries and special California 

Galen Cranz has a PhD in sociology and is 
Assistant Professor in the Department of 
Architecture at UC Berkeley. Her book on 
the history of urban parks will be published 
by MIT Press in 1981. 



Architectural Education 

A Letter from the Ivory Tower 

Dear Reader: 

I wish to outline certain problems of women faculty in architectural education. I want to 
write of causes as well as symptoms, but must do so only through generalizations, though 
these are grounded in personal recollection and collectively shared impressions. I am hope- 
ful that you will believe me; for the trials of a woman faculty member within a department 
or school of architecture are formidable and incessant. She functions principally as teacher 
and colleague; yet she enjoys but secondary status in an often outrageously unfair world, 
run by and for the benefit of her male colleagues and governors. 

In professional architectural education both the curriculum and the greatest prestige 
center on teaching within the "design studio" sequence of courses. The design studio is, in 
fact, the raison d'etre of any school of architecture— just as the activity of designing re- 
mains at the core of any practicing architect's concept of his or her professional role. All 
other basic areas of study are auxiliary to the design studio. 

I have never known nor have I ever heard of any instance where a woman has been 
primarily engaged to teach technical courses. If there have been such cases, I would be sur- 
prised to learn that they were anything but short-term or ad hoc appointments made by 
the (invariably male) chairman or dean {Is it REALLY true that a woman lacks "the scien- 
tific mind"?). In the secondary architectural disciplines (indeed, because secondary), it is in 
teaching history that women are most likely to be found. Occasionally, history is linked 
with "theory." But theory is an area of study speculative by definition and philosophical 
by implication. Given this intellectual thrust, it is not surprising that the teaching of theory 
is delegated to the studio instructor— who is, conveniently enough, almost always male 
{Can women REALLY be trusted with something so SERIOUS as theory?). 

The travails of women on architecture faculties become really telling when one consid- 
ers the various teaching formats; the seminar, the lecture, and— above all — the studio. 

The seminar presents the least number of problems and the greatest freedom from 
stereotyped responses to a woman by students. This discursive situation permits the 
female instructor to be understood and accepted more readily as an individual. As the 
seminar is also usually the format for more specialized courses, often in history and design 
theory, it is usually populated with advanced undergraduate or graduate students, who 
tend to be more mature intellectually and socially. 

In lecture courses, however, women frequently encounter the consequences of the 
diminished intellectual credibility society assigns to them. The format presumes that the 
lecturer is accepted by the students (generally a younger and far larger group) as an 
"authority figure" in the field. Woe to the woman who automatically assumes that she can 
command the lectern with the same respect as her male counterpart. Students tend to 
expect a theatrical savoir-faire— a commanding physical presence, much gesticulation, and 
a booming voice all help. In the absence of an orator, architectural students will happily 
settle for the charismatic, heroic "master designer" (a curiously architectural fascination). 
Pity the female lecturer who is neither a Barbara Jordan nor a Le Corbusier. Many of these 
problems are without question reinforced by the continuing reluctance of schools of archi- 
tecture to invite female lecturers to speak in their guest-lecture series or to include us as 
participants (let alone moderators) in symposia. All this unreasonably enhances the vul- 
nerability of the woman who finds herself a lecturer. 

Yet the problems women face in the lecture hall pale by comparison with the design 
studio setting. It is in the studio where issues of credibility and control are most acutely 
felt, principally because of intense and insidious sex-role stereotyping. How can a woman 
match her students' expectations of an omniscient (male) design "guru"? In format the 
studio is the opposite of the lecture situation; it involves the most intimate, personal con- 
tact between student and teacher. You might think this to be the ideal situation for a 
woman to be accepted on individual, not stereotyped, grounds. But you would be quite 


© 1981 Ellen K. Morris 

The design studio mentality originated in the atelier format of 19th-century architec- 
tural apprenticeship. Especially in its charette aspects (when students devote themselves to 
the completion of a project, often for days on end without sleep), the studio remains 
vestigially symbolic of the sadomasochistic initiation rites undergone by pubescent boys 
desirous of entering into professional manhood. The architectural studio presupposes a 
"captain-at-the-helm," "cloak-in-the-breeze" type of instructor— a supremely male figure 
commanding respect through sheer presence. For those male studio instructors who fail to 
meet this authoritarian, father-figure ideal, a suitable substitute is the architectural "coach" 
rousing his team to victory, a "comrade-in-arms" or avuncular "buddy-figure" willingly 
standing by his students while they forge through the muck and mire of aesthetic creation. 
The studio critic is thus the quintessentially male architectural persona, and it stands to 
reason that the female studio instructor has an inordinately difficult time demonstrating 
(should she ever care to) either that she is as much a "buddy" as her male colleagues or 
(heaven forbid) that she is entitled to the same respect. 

A woman's presence as a studio instructor is taken neither as seriously nor as authori- 
tatively as that of her male colleagues. Almost invariably she is hired to teach in the lower- 
most years of the design studio sequence (the "elementary school" syndrome). Often she-is 
called to task by her students for unquestionably trivial infractions, which (not surprising- 
ly) would be overlooked in a male. An alleged offense might be an occasional overly 
complex design assignment (or an overly simplistic one). Or there might be a vague feeling 
that she is playing favorites by seeming to spend more time with some students and less 
with others (Does it have anything to do with mother's not paying enough attention?). 
Normal attempts by female critics to enforce the usual level of rigor in the studio (includ- 
ing final grading) may be perceived as untoward and unfair (father disciplines; mother 
comforts). The double-standard survives, as expected: all such assumed transgressions are 
far more readily excused in the case of male critics. 

Many of the problems facing women in architectural education are shared by women 
in other academic fields. Difficulties with male colleagues arising out of competitive fears, 
inability to separate sexual from professional spheres, reduced credibility, imagined in- 
timidations, and all the rest are by no means unique to architecture. Yet all these issues 
(and more) are certainly exacerbated in architectural education because of the intensified 
machismo ideal long associated with the role of the architect in society (Remember How- 
ard Rourke?). To design a building— indeed, to build a design— continues to confer the 
semblance of immortality. I suspect that in architecture schools, which tend to have facul- 
ties populated with male architects doing little actual building, ego problems, resulting 
from secret professional frustrations (Those who cannot DO, TEACH instead??), become 
all-the-more exaggerated by the presence of women on the faculty. 

I write to you from the ivy-covered halls of an institution long-hallowed in the world of 
architectural education. A landmark class-action suit on behalf of all women academics at 
this university was recently filed in federal court— poignant testimony, indeed, to count- 
less frustrations and unconscionable mistreatment throughout this university, and in aca- 
demia everywhere. 

Yet it is clear that many of the dilemmas women face in architectural education, if not 
in other fields, could be vastly ameliorated simply by the sustained recruitment and reten- 
tion of far more female faculty (especially as design critics). The "male persona" of the 
studio critic can, I am certain, be de-mythified. The more women faculty there are, the 
more likely we are to be perceived in individual rather than generic terms. The affirmative 
action program at this university ensures that there is one woman on this architecture 
faculty at any given time (I assure you, more than one at a time is sheer miscalculation). In 
so many university affirmative action programs it is hiring that seems to be the sum and 
substance of the commitment made to women (But what of reappointment? Promotion? 
TENURE??). The "revolving door" policy used by most male academics to bring women to 
the faculty, only to force their exit peremptorily once they have served their token use, is 
simply no longer acceptable. All this, and here too— at a university whose president, mind 
you, last year proclaimed publicly that: 

/ regard affirmative action as an imperative— both moral and social . . . We should value 
the enrichment which the increased presence of such persons has already brought to our 
community. It is that enriching influence we seek to expand and "nurture" [my emphasis] 
through our affirmative action efforts. 

Spare me such hypocrisy! 

Bon Courage to all, 

Ellen K. Morris 

Assistant Professor of Architecture 

Ellen Morris, a professor of architecture and 
architectural critic, is currently editing an 
issue of the Journal of Architectural Educa- 





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In this project Lorna McNeur proposes 
that Central Park stands for Manhattan 
Island itself. She argues, through a series 
of drawings and a model, that if the plan 
of Central Park were blown up to the size 
of Manhattan, the park's crossroads 
would coincide with the city's main cross- 
town thoroughfares and the Grand Prom- 
enade with Broadway. The first drawing 
outlines the perimeter green drive. This 
outline, which encloses a space separated 
from the hard edges of the rectangle, re- 
sembles that of Manhattan Island. The 
Grand Promenade, lined with formally 
planted trees along its axis, leads to a 
space that resembles, in character and 

composition, a mansion — designed for 
every member of the public in order to 
instill a sense of ownership of the park. 
Vista Point is the culmination of the 
Grand Promenade, just as Columbus Cir- 
cle punctuates Broadway at Central Park. 
The second drawing shows that, like the 
city, the park contains "neighborhoods" 
outlined by roads. These "neighborhoods" 
have their own special character, given by 
the landscape and the different kinds of 
activities within each precinct. The model, 
designed to reveal the city that McNeur 
imagines exists within the landscape, 
shows the location of the old, rectangular 
reservoir (included in the original design). 

Lorna McNeur 

This rectangle is located within Central 
Park in the same place where Central Park 
would be if inserted in a map of Manhat- 
tan. McNeur's original interpretation of 
Central Park suggests that nature and the 
city are not antagonistic conditions: that 
the landscape can mirror the city and thus 
transcend its status as a wilderness that 
can only be conquered by suppression or 
enshrined in a display. (S.T.) 

Lorna McNeur designed this project as her 
thesis for Cooper Union School of Architec- 
ture. She is currently with Skidmore, Owings 
and Merrill and will exhibit at Artists Space 
in 1981. 


© 1981 Lorna McNeur 

Diana Balmori 

Dear Larry, 

In this peculiarly wild time I tried to 
get to your office within the half hour and 
reached there at quarter to five, but you 
had already fled five minutes before. It is 
too bad not to have had the chance of 
speaking to you, as I am off again to the 
Oaks on Thursday and shall not be back 
in New York until late on. 

Very sincerely yours, 

came across this letter in the McKim 
Mead and White file at the New York 
Historical Society while doing re- 
search on architectural offices. It was 
the first time I had seen the name Beatrix 
Farrand. The letter was filed under the 
design job "Bliss." 1 I discovered that the 
Bliss residence, "the Oaks" in the letter, 
was Dumbarton Oaks, the estate in Wash- 
ington, D.C., famous as the site of the 
founding of the United Nations. Beatrix 
Farrand was the designer of its gardens. I 
also discovered that she had designed 200 
other gardens, some for a list of clients 
that reads like a social register — Mrs. 
Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Woodrow Wil- 
son, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpont 
Morgan, Edward Harkness — and some 
for those who thought that having a Far- 
rand garden opened "certain social 
doors." 2 During most of her long profes- 
sional life, from 1896 to 1948, Beatrix 
Farrand could turn down work. Yet she is 
unknown today. 3 

Beatrix Farrand, nee Jones, lived from 
1872 to 1959. She received her profession- 
al training at the Arnold Arboretum of 
Harvard University, from its director 
Charles Sargent, but she had no official 
connection with the university. Profes- 
sional training in landscape architecture 
was not offered until the 1900s, but Far- 
rand received the best training available 
at the time— largely straight horticultural 
training. She was also educated by her 
travels, which included visits to gardens 
in England and Scotland. 

Farrand's professional and social con- 

Beatrix Farrand. 

nections enabled her to be in the right 
place at the right time in landscape circles 
in America. Memoirs on Richard Hunt by 
his wife Catherine Howland Hunt include 
an entry: 

The party went out from Grand Central 
in two private railroad cars, consisting of 
Mr. Charles McKim. . . Miss Beatrix Jones 
[later Farrand], Mrs. Charles Sargent . 4 

It was 1892, and the private railroad car 
party was going to see the Columbian Ex- 
position in Chicago before it opened. 
Burnham and Olmsted 5 would meet them 
and give them the royal tour. An entry 
dated two years later in the Hunt memoirs 

At the end of February Richard [Hunt] 
spent a week at Biltmore, Mrs. Cadwalad- 
er Jones and her daughter Beatrix being of 
the party. 6 

So Farrand saw Olmsted's last two jobs 
as they were being designed and built: the 

grounds of the Columbian Exposition and 
those of "Biltmore," Vanderbilt's estate in 
North Carolina. 7 

It was not Olmsted, however, but two 
women who were the main molders of the 
ideas and forms of Farrand's gardens. This 
is a rare instance of a professional woman 
with female role models. One of these 
women was Farrand's aunt, the novelist 
Edith Wharton; 8 the other was the English 
landscape architect Gertrude Jekyll.' The 
influence of both Wharton and Jekyll can 
be seen in Farrand's one extant garden, 
Dumbarton Oaks. 

This is the garden Farrand considered 
"the best and most deeply felt of a fifty- 
year practice." 10 It consists of a series of 
walks around a hilly site. The house sits 
on the highest point. The garden's design 
concept resembles Edith Wharton's de- 
scription (as will be seen later) of the gar- 
dens of Italian villas— a series of rooms 
for outdoor living. One look at Dumbar- 
ton Oaks' plan reveals at a glance the 
variety of sizes and shapes of its outdoor 
"rooms." Different materials define each 
space: stone, brick, box hedges, etc., and 
in each the planting scheme is varied to 
create a different mood. 

There is an order to the kind of spaces 
or outdoor rooms. Close to the house, the 
spaces are formal; gradually they move to 
greater and greater informality as distance 
from the house increases, until at the edges 
the planting almost blends into the natural 
park which surrounds the garden. 

No one path takes the garden-walker 
around the whole garden. Rather, there 
are a multiplicity of paths which go to a 
multiplicity of gardens. From a few places 
in the garden one gets a glimpse of a large 
vista, but as an idea the garden is more a 
series of magical spaces. 

Farrand received the commission for 
the Dumbarton Oaks garden in 1923 
when she was 51 and already had a long 
list of gardens to her credit. 11 The com- 
mission for this 54-acre garden, of which 
only 16 acres remain, came from Robert 
W. Bliss, U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, 
and his wife Mildred. (They returned in 
1931 to a nearly completed house and 
grounds.) The site already had a house on 
it, which was altered and expanded by 
Lawrence G. White of McKim Mead 
and White, the son of architect Stanford 
White. The interiors were given to archi- 

© 1981 Diana Balmori 


tect Ogden Codman, Edith Wharton's co- 
author on her first book, The Decoration 
of Houses (1901). 

The real client, however, was not Am- 
bassador Bliss, but his wife Mildred. She 
would send her own drawings of facades 
and plans to the architect. 12 During the 
course of the project, she and Farrand 
were to become close friends. 

For the Dumbarton Oaks job, the 
landscape architect was given an unusual- 
ly prominent role in the design process. 
The garden was not to be designed after 
the buildings. On the contrary, White had 
to get Farrand's approval on the siting and 
design of each new part. She had a say in 
the placing of the major addition— the 
music room (which later became famous 
as the place where the United Nations was 
founded). In a letter to White of July 1926, 
Farrand noted: 

A further letter from Mrs. Bliss suggests 
that it may be well for you and me to dis- 
cuss the various schemes not only for the 
music room but the loggia arcade and its 
surroundings. 13 

And in October of the same year: 

A long cable received from the Blisses 
says they have cabled you the acceptance 
of the woodshed and west wing plans and 
regarding the living room and that they 
are willing to reduce the loggia to eight 
feet if desirable. Will you therefore be so 
very kind as to try the narrowing of the 
loggia to eight feet and see whether it 
seems to materially spoil the scheme 
which you and Mr. Cox had in mind; and 
if eight seems impossible let me know 
what reduction you feel can be made with- 
out disaster. 11 

There seems to have been a weekly re- 
port to the Blisses, for White sent a copy 
regularly to the Farrand office during 
1926-27. It was during this time that the 
layout for the different outdoor spaces 
was being decided upon: that of the north 
vista, for example, in front of the music 

Thank you for the copy of the letter to 
Mr. Bliss containing your weekly report. 
Sketches continue in my office on the 
troublesome north vista question, and I 
hope, before long, will be sufficiently ad- 
vanced to show you on one of my next 
visits to New York. 15 

The north vista and the music room deci- 
sions were intertwined, and Farrand was 
clearly in command of them. 

The correspondence with the client 
gives a picture of a painstakingly thor- 
ough method of working. Farrand seems 
to have tried out everything with models 
and mock-ups, not just drawings. She 
presented many alternatives to the client: 
one garden gate appears in eight different 
versions in the records. 1 " In her designs 

■» v. r UiMlilsiwiill 

P. i 


Kidney-shaped garden seat, Dumbarton 
Oaks. Design drawing and photograph. 

for the garden furniture, almost all pieces 
were detailed at full scale. Furniture and 
plant material were designed as a piece, as 
the drawing for the kidney seat in the For- 
sythia Walk and the photograph of its 
bower setting show. 17 Mock-ups were 
erected on the site for the client to see, and 
they were altered in place. As Mildred 
Bliss described it; 

. . .such were Mrs. Farrand's integrity and 
loyalty that, despite the long absences 
necessitated by the professional nomad- 
ism of the owners, never in all the years 
did she impose a detail of which she was 
"sure" but which the owners' eye did not 
"see"; and never were the owners so per- 
suasive as to insist on a design which Mrs. 
Farrand's inner eye could not accept. ls 

The correspondence gives evidence of the 
on-site testing process: 

It would seem to me perhaps best not to 
build the spur wall northwest of the garage 
higher than is necessary to retain the road- 
way until you and I have a chance to 
see if." 

It also gives evidence of the construction 
and study of on-site mock-ups: 

. . . / agree with you that the width of the 
staircase should probably be reduced, as 1 
thought the dummy rather over-large 
when we measured it together. As I am 
expecting to go to Washington during the 
week after Labor Day, I think of telling 
Davis to put up the dummy so I can see it 
then; and if you are in the Washington 
area at the moment I can report to you on 
its appearance. 20 

Once things were tested, and seen, there 
were fast, clear-cut decisions: 

// you are willing I will take the responsi- 
bility of asking you to take off the two 
balconies over the east bay roof which 
will look even more dreadfully when the 
new lead roof is in place than they do now 
(which is saying a good deal!). If you 
agree to taking off the balconies will you 
write and tell Davis he may do so, and tell 
him to keep them carefully in case they 
are again needed. We can keep them intact 
so that if their absence is lamented we can 
glue them on again. 21 

Little was said, however, in the letters 
of exactly what Farrand was striving for 
in her design, except for one theme which 
can be threaded through her few written 

Perhaps also you will help me with the 
north vista, as I think you and I are 
anxious to keep this part of the design, 
and yet it must look as if it belonged 
there. 22 

Farrand intended her gardens to be used, 
and she was constantly aware of how 
people would move through and enjoy 
the garden. Dumbarton Oaks was planted 
for fall, winter, and spring, but not for 
summer, when its owners would be away. 
The enjoyment and comfort of the user 
were considered as important as form and 
visual considerations: 

When it is realized that the level between 
the Orangery floor and the level around 
Lovers Lane Pool shows a drop between 
45 and 50 feet, there will be a clearer 
understanding for the reasons controlling 
the design of the conspicuously narrow 
terraces and their accompanying flights of 
steps . . . the steps everywhere have been 
made not higher than a six-inch rise and 
with a 14-inch or wider tread as it was 
realized that weariness in step-climbing 
takes away much of the pleasure of a gar- 
den visit. It was also established as a gen- 
eral principle that where possible no flights 
of more than six steps should be built 
without a landing between the first and 
the next run of another six or eight steps. 
These landings have been made longer 
than three feet where possible in order to 
give rest to the climber. 21 

Farrand's manuscript at the Dumbar- 
ton Oaks Garden Library consists mainly 
of notes for planting with lists of appro- 
priate plant materials, but occasionally 
there is a statement of design intentions: 

This courtyard is hardly a garden but 
should be thought of more as an unroofed 
room adjoining the music room and the 
museum so that its scale is really an in- 
terior and not an outdoor scale and the 
planting should be done with this con- 
stantly in mind. 2 '' 

If one tried to find one overall concept 
that unified all of Farrand's work, I think 



it would be the garden as a sequence of 
spaces rather than just a large vista. 25 This 
idea is central to the design of Dumbarton 
Oaks, as is the idea of the decreasing for- 
mality of spaces as they move away from 
the house. Both ideas owe much to the 
work of Edith Wharton. In preparation 
for her book on Italian villas, Wharton 

The really interesting thing is the relation 
of architecture to nature in old Italian gar- 
dens. . . . A secret of their art is the skillful 
subdivision of parts so that instead of a 
flat waste of lawn or an unbroken extent 
of formal garden they provide a variety of 
effects and impressions, alternations of 
shade and sunshine, of movement and re- 
pose, of definite architectural lines and 
vague masses of foliage. 11 ' 

And in the book Italian Villas and Their 
Gardens, published in 1904, when Farrand 
was getting her first important commis- 
sions, Wharton commented: 

. . to this end, the grounds were as care- 
fully and conveniently planned as the 
house, with broad paths (in which two or 
more could go abreast) leading from one 
division to another; each step away from 
architecture was a nearer approach to 
nature.- 7 

If Wharton was present in the overall 
structure of the garden's design, Gertrude 
Jekyll appears in the aesthetics of individ- 

ual parts. Jekyll, a member of the English 
Arts and Crafts movement, found inspira- 
tion in cottage gardens and in the vernac- 
ular, or what was of local and traditional 
use. She, too, made a garden by creating a 
series of distinct spaces. She gave these 
spaces different characters through the 
use of texture and color, often confined to 
a limited range in a contained space. Ex- 
amples are her purple-grey garden at 
Hestercombe and the all-white garden at 
Sissinghurst (designed by Vita Sackville- 
West under the influence of Jekyll). It is 
this boldness in the use of a narrow color 
range which is echoed in Farrand's Dum- 
barton Oaks, both in the Forsythia Hill 
and in the Green Garden behind the 
Orangery, where planting consists of 
trees, grass, and ivy ground cover to serve 
as background to the colors of dresses at 
the outdoor entertainments held there in 
spring and summer. The clearly contained 
green of Jekyll's Castle Drogo circle rever- 
berates in Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks 
ellipse, originally also made of box hedges, 
but replaced with a double row of horn- 
beams in aerial-hedge formation. Finally, 
as the garden reaches its edge and seeps, 
nearly, into nature, both Jekyll and Far- 
rand stand as major artists. Jekyll's pond 
at Great Dixter and Farrand's Cherry Hill 
are made to look like nature itself. Only 
Jekyll and Farrand, her disciple, attempt- 
ed to get so close. But Farrand stated ex- 
plicitly that this was not done in search of 
the natural garden: 

1— 1 , j , ••_ " p 



(' > 

Garden plan, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. 

. . . a garden is an absolutely artificial 
thing. It is the change of scale [from na- 
ture's scale] that makes the composition 
artificial: a real garden is just as artificial 
as a painting. 2 " 

A tentative assessment of Farrand's 
work sets it apart from her contemporary 
practitioners, who were building gardens 
in "styles." She referred to precedents, but 
did not copy them. She opposed many of 
White's and her clients' desires to bring in 
fountains, gates, and other garden furni- 
ture from Europe. But she was not a pur- 
ist, for she incorporated many such ob- 
jects which were bought for the garden. 
Her greatest achievement was in making 
effective use of the existing site, whether a 
hill or a hollow or existing trees, to create 
a designed garden which looked as if it 
belonged there. 

Records show that on the Bliss job 
Farrand was mainly assisted by two de- 
signers in her office: Anne Baker and 
Maya H, Bailie. There was also a drafts- 
person who signed some drawings "G. 
Russ." In the ten years of the Bliss job 
(1923-33), there were at least ten other 
large design jobs in the office. 29 Farrand 
had two offices in those years: one in New 
York and another in Bar Harbor, Maine. 
There were copies of the most active jobs 
at both offices. 

By following the addresses in the cor- 
respondence for those ten years, we can 
make out that Farrand spent the months 
from May to November working in her 
Maine office and the rest of the year in her 
New York office. But she did not work 
only in the office: most letters refer to a 
forthcoming visit or a return from a job 
site. Since all these travels were by train, 
her activity was quite remarkable. 

A list of home addresses throws some 
light on the way Farrand coordinated her 
work with her personal life, which she al- 
ways kept very private. New York City 
appears as a home address in 1913. At the 
end of 1913, at age 42, she married Yale 
historian Max Farrand. Her home address 
is then listed as New Haven, with her New 
York address as the office. In 1924 she 
added the Maine office. In 1926 she added 
a home in New York at 77 Park Avenue. 
By 1927, and until 1942, Max Farrand was 
Director of the Huntington Library in 
Pasadena, California. Beatrix Farrand 
was offered a curatorship there, but she 
declined it. We then see her traveling for 
one month every year to California, from 
late December to late January. Max Far- 
rand came east for the summer months 
and sometimes longer. By 1932, toward 
the end of the Dumbarton Oaks job, she 
still had her two offices, but she listed her 
home address as San Marino, California. 30 
At the height of the Bliss job, for her 
yearly trip to California, she would send a 
set of addresses along the train stops so 



she could be reached in transit on job 

Little evidence of her private life re- 
mains beyong this outline of enormous 
activity. The very small glimpses she lets 
us catch of her reflect the anxiety of such a 
busy life: 

Thank you, too, for offering to put me up 
in New Haven, but I fear I am so agitated 
a guest that 1 had better go to a hotel 
rather than bother people of whom I am 
fond with my strange hours and ceaseless 
work. I do, however, appreciate your in- 
viting me, and some day when work 
calms down slightly will take advantage 
of your niceness. 31 

Beatrix Farrand certainly achieved 
great success in her profession. She ac- 
complished a large body of excellent work 
and was an innovator in her subtle trans- 
lation of foreign forms at a time when 
foreign models flooded American design. 
She ran her jobs in the format of a modern 
American office at a time in which this 
specialized office format was just emerg- 
ing. Her clients and collaborators were 
important socially and professionally. 
She had made herself officially prominent 
in the profession by helping to found the 
American Society of Landscape Archi- 
tects. Why, then, has she been forgotten, 
unlike her two professional role models, 
Wharton and Jekyll? 

A comparison to Jekyll, who is well 
remembered as a landscape architect, is 
instructive. Jekyll was prolific in writing 
about her work, writing book after book 
on gardening, as well as articles in jour- 
nals important in the field. Farrand wrote 
only a few articles very early in her career. 
The notes which survive from Dumbarton 
Oaks gardens are just working notes, 
mostly about plant materials. Woman's 
work tends to remain within the private 
sphere unless it is forced out into the pub- 
lic domain, usually by the method of 
printing. I do not think it is accidental 
that literature is one of the few areas 
where there have been important women 
artists. The printed word insures that the 
work becomes public. Painting on a can- 
vas or composing music does not. In land- 
scape architecture and architecture, pri- 
vate gardens and private homes have been 
the main realm in which women have 
worked. It is Jekyll's writings about her 
gardens which have saved her work for 
posterity more than her actual gardens. 
Trapped in the private sphere, women 
and their work disappear and remain un- 
acknowledged, ineffective. It is because 
Dumbarton Oaks has become a garden 
open to the public that we have a chance 
to recover Beatrix Farrand. 

1. Oct. 28, 1931, Beatrix Farrand to Law- 
rence G. White (New York Historical 
Society [NYHS1, McKim, Mead and 
White [MMW] Correspondence, Bliss 
File [BFj 396). 

2. Also Vassar College, Yale, Princeton, 
and Chicago Universities. 

3. 1 am greatly indebted to Darwina L. 
Neal, Vice-President of the American 
Society of Landscape Architects, and to 
Laura Byers, in charge of the Garden Li- 
brary at Dumbarton Oaks. 

4. Catherine Howland Hunt, The R.M: 
Hunt Papers, ed. Alan Burnham (Green- 
wich, Conn: American Architectural 
Archive), p. 261. 

5. Daniel Burnham (1846-1912) was a 
Chicago architect and planner-organizer 
of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. 
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), a 
landscape architect, founded the profes- 
sion in the United States and designed 
Central Park in New York City and the 
grounds for the Chicago World's Fair. 

6. Hunt, p. 278. 

7. In 1899 Beatrix Farrand, aged 27, and 10 
other landscape architects, all men, 
founded the American Society of Land- 
scape Architects (ASLA). 

8. Edith Wharton's brother, Frederick 
Jones, divorced Mary Cadwalader Jones 
when Beatrix was still a child. Neverthe- 
less, mother and daughter remained part 
of Wharton's entourage, first at Whar- 
ton's "The Mount" in Lenox, Mass., then 
in France and England. The wealthy set 
they belonged to is depicted in Wharton's 
Age of Innocence. 

9. Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was the 
most important English landscape archi- 
tect of her time. Farrand bought all of 
Jekyll's papers and design drawings at an 
auction in England in the late '30s and 
later donated thern to the Berkeley Li- 
brary of Landscape Architecture. 

10. Georgina Masson, Dumbarton Oaks: A 
Guide to the Gardens (Washington, 
D.C.: Port City Press, 1968), p. 6. 

11. Edward F. Whitney (N.Y., 1906), Grad- 
uate College at Princeton (1912), Willard 
D. Straight (Old Westbury, N.Y., 1913), 
Robert Goelet (Chester, N.Y., 1913), 
White House garden for Mrs. Woodrow 
Wilson (1913), Mrs. Herbert L. Satterlee 
(Bar Harbor, Me., 1916), Edward S. 
Harkness (New London, Conn., 1920) — 
this brought the commission for eight 
new Yale colleges for which Harkness 
gave the money (1921), Mrs. Theodore 
Roosevelt (no date but built in the teens). 

12. Philip Johnson credited Mildred Bliss as 
co-designer of the Dumbarton Oaks Pre- 
Colombian Art Museum. 

13. July 20, 1926, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF, 396). 

14. Oct. 8, 1926, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF 396). 

15. Oct. 29, 1926, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF396). 

16. Folder C 2.09 8 variants of garden gate 
(date 5/10/39, Garden Library, Dum- 
barton Oaks, Trustees of Harvard Uni- 
versity, Washington, D.C.). 

17. Folder B 2. 13 kidney seat drawings at 
3" = 1'; lVi" = 1' and full-scale detail. 

18. Mildred Bliss, "Beatrix Farrand: An At- 
tempted Evocation of a Personality," 
Landscape Architecture, Vol. 49, No. 4 
(Summer 1959), p. 223. 

19. Jan. 18, 1926, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF396). 

20. Aug. 29, 1927, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF396). 

21. April 23, 1928, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF396). 

22. June 15, 1923, Farrand to White (NYHS, 
MMW Correspondence, BF396). 

23. Beatrix Farrand's Notes on the Gardens 
of Dumbarton Oaks, section titled 
"Orangery" (Garden Library, Dumbar- 
ton Oaks). 

24. Beatrix Farrand's Notes on the Gardens 
of Dumbarton Oaks, section titled "Mu- 
seum Courtyard." 

25. Beatrix Farrand called herself a "land- 
scape gardener." This was an ideological 
stand against the English school of land- 
scape architecture created by Capability 
Brown which sought to create large land- 
scaped vistas. 

26. April 7, 1902, Edith Wharton to Max- 
fieid Parrish, from Milan (letter from 
Wharton estate, copy kindly lent by Coy 
Ludwig, Director Tyler Art Gallery, 
SUNY Oswego). 

27. Edith Wharton, Italian Villas and Their 
Gardens (New York: Century, 1904 [Da 
Capo reprint 1976]), pp. 11-12. 

28. Beatrix Jones, "The Garden as Picture," 
Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 42 (July 1907), 
p. 7. 

29. Headmaster's garden, Hill School (Potts- 
town, Pa., 1922); consulting landscape 
gardener, Yale University (from 1922; 
design for grounds of new colleges from 
1927); consulting landscape gardener, 
Hill School (from 1925); consulting land- 
scape gardener, Vassar (from 1925); Per- 
cy R. Pyne II garden (Roslyn, N.Y., 
1926); Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (Seal 
Harbor, Me., 1927); Dabney Hall Gar- 
den, California Institute of Technology 
(Pasadena, Cal., 1929); various build- 
ings, University of Chicago (1930-31); 
consulting landscape gardener, Univer- 
sity of Chicago (1933); Dartington Hall 
and Estate (Devonshire, Eng., 1933). 

30. By 1940 when she was 68, the N.Y. office 
was disassembled. The Bar Harbor ad- 
dress became both office and home two 
years later. Max Farrand died there in 
1945; she died there in 1959 at 87. 

31. Oct. 9, 1937, Farrand to Mrs. Charles 
Andrews (Yale University Library, 
Charles Andrews Collection Box 64, 
Folder Oct. 1-9). 

Diana Balmori is Associate Professor of His- 
tory at the State University of New York, 
specializing in 19th-century social history. 
She is also an Associate at Cesar Pelli Asso- 
ciates, Architects. 


Building the Women's Club in 

entury America 

Cynthia Rock 

omen conversing in social 
visits in each other's homes 
or gathering near husbands 
at a dinner party remain 
women as wives, mothers, daughters, 
mistresses of the house; women deliber- 
ately gathering away from home to dis- 
cuss their common womanhood and to 
help each other grow is an act heavy with 
the potential for social change. We are fa- 
miliar with this phenomenon through the 
consciousness-raising groups of the early 
1970s. What is not so well known is that 
such gatherings were precedented 100 
years earlier in the formation of the first 
women's clubs in America. In both eras 
women were motivated to come together 
by their discontent with isolation in the 
home. In the post-Civil War era, however, 
the stricter definition of proper behavior 
made the formation of a club exclusively 
for women a much more difficult act — 
one that some saw as scandalous and one 
that provoked the disapproval of many 
a Victorian husband. Nevertheless, wom- 
en's clubs proliferated and lasted. To 
make manifest their identity and their 
commitment, to continuity, many clubs 
put their resources to the task of planning, 
financing, and building clubhouses for 
themselves. The energy of the club move- 
ment and the need which it met resulted in 
a membership of 200,000 women by 1902. ' 
Having bettered the lives of women mem- 
bers as well as implementing social re- 
forms, the movement became the breed- 
ing ground for the political activity which 
achieved women's suffrage in 1920. 

Nineteenth-century women had first 
met in work groups such as church sewing 
circles. These meetings were for specific 
charitable purposes, and they did not 
require women to voice opinions, make 
policy, or do original work. One can 
speculate that the conversation remained 
very close to the domestic realm. Mean- 
while, participation in the abolition move- 
ment was bringing some women to the 
public podium and requiring them to de- 
velop organizational skills. As a result, 
some women developed a taste for intel- 
lectually demanding activity outside the 

home, while younger women, newly edu- 
cated alongside men, felt stultified in the 
confines of domestic life after the mental 
work and companionship of school. 

As early as the 1820s women in Smith- 
field, R.I., began meeting as the Female 
Improvement Society with the intention 
of developing their minds through reading 
and writing. 2 Jennie C. Croly, a New York 
journalist and historian of the women's 
club movement, dates the beginning of 
the movement with her own March 1868 
call for a meeting to form what became 
the club "Sorosis," an event which was 
provoked by her rebuffed attempt to at- 
tend a dinner for Charles Dickens at the 
Press Club of New York. 3 

The women who gathered to form 
Sorosis came together with the idea that 
the club would not have a central belief or 
a specific charitable purpose. The idea 
uniting this and other early clubs was that 

of coming together from diverse parts of 
society in equality and common woman- 
hood to seek greater knowledge together. 
"Unity in Diversity" later became the slo- 
gan of the General Federation of Woman's 

It [Sorosis] simply felt the stirring of an 
intense desire that women should come 
together — all together, not from one 
church or one neighborhood, or one walk 
of life, but from all quarters, and take 
counsel together, find the cause of failure 
and separation, of ignorance and wrong- 
doing. . .saying and doing what we are 
able to say and do, without asking leave, 
and without suffering hindrance. 4 

More specific goals would emerge, they 
believed, when women were encouraged 
to think independently. Croly, in her 
1300-page The History of the Woman's 
Club Movement in America of 1898, 

Drawing room stage. New Century 
(later Nichols), Architect. 

Wilmington, Delaware, 1893. Minerva 1 

© 1981 Cynthia Rock 


traces the clubwomen's motivation to the 
reformist ideas of the 19th century and its 
belief in "the rights of all living things" 
stemming from the Reformation and the 
Renaissance. In an analysis sounding like 
feminist writing from the 1970s, she con- 
trasts contemporary woman's isolation in 
the home with the communality of matri- 
archal American Indian societies, and she 
singles out women's religious orders as the 
only previous refuge from male power. 
The lack of charitable goals or a very 
specific purpose made Sorosis an object of 
ridicule and criticism by men, and some 
husbands forbade wives to join. Perhaps 
early clubwomen wished to avoid the in- 
delicacy and potential conflicts of politi- 
cal work. In any case, they were clever in 
choosing to build slowly on what they 
had in common — their own ignorance 
and sense of exclusion from the world's 
important business. 

Principles of equal status, equal shar- 
ing of work and opportunity, and a natu- 
ral following of the group's changing and 
expanding interests are ideals which are 
mentioned again and again in the reports 
from hundreds of women's clubs in the 
United States and abroad, which Croly 
compiled in her history. The activity that 
seems to have sparked the most interest in 
earliest clubs was self-education, and 
reading and analysis of literature above 
all. Shakespeare, Greek poetry, Thack- 
eray, and Emerson were popular subjects 
for study. In addition, the clubs studied 
art — "How to See Pictures," "The Art of 
the Sculptor" — ancient and European his- 
tory, languages, and geography. Some 
larger clubs developed a curriculum of 
standing study courses on many topics. 
Others stayed on a topic for months at a 
time in order to avoid superficiality; one 
procedure was. to take a mock tour of a 
country, studying all its aspects over a 
period of months. Preparation of analyti- 
cal papers and presentation to the group 
was a standard format. Many clubs in- 
sisted that each member make these pre- 
sentations in turn— an idea which rever- 
berates in the 1970s with consciousness- 
raising groups "going around the circle" to 
speak. Club reports are full of testimonials 
of very timid, little-educated women blos- 
soming as they discovered their intelli- 
gence and developed their skills in writing 
and speaking. One Sorosis member wrote: 

One of the greatest needs of women is 
motive for mental activity— an hospitable 
entertainment of their thought. [Sorosis 
gave me] an atmosphere so genial, an 
appreciation so prompt, a faith so gener- 
ous, that every possibility of my nature 
seemed intensified, and all its latent pow- 
ers quickened into life. 5 

The desire to have a permanent, offi- 
cial place which was the club can be seen 

Corner in reading room, Nineteenth Century 
Club of Memphis, Tennessee. 

throughout the reports from women's 
clubs. The claiming of space or the mak- 
ing of a place out of physical materials 
and dedicating it to a group and its ideals 
and activities is an essential human activi- 
ty and may be seen as the primary act of 
architecture. The act of making a building 
for oneself or one's group is a concretiza- 
tion and permanent record of self-image, 
aspirations, and perceived needs. An ex- 
amination of women's club buildings and 
the process of making them through what 
data remain— mainly verbal descriptions, 
but also some drawings and photographs 
— reveals these characteristics. 

In some instances women architects 
and artists were commissioned to work on 
clubhouses. The two New Century Clubs, 
in Philadelphia and in Wilmington, were 
designed by Miss Minerva Parker, later 
Mrs. Nichols, one of the earliest women 
architects on record. In the Philadelphia 
reception room a Miss Gabrielle Clements 
executed the allegorical murals showing 
youths and maidens symbolizing Art, 
Science, Labor, and Charity. Julia Mor- 
gan, the prolific California architect, was 
commissioned to build a number of wom- 
en's club buildings in that state, including 
the 1915 Foothills Club in Saratoga, the 
1918 club in Sausalito, and the Berkeley 
Women's City Club of 1928." The enthusi- 
asm which must have gone into such all- 
woman endeavors is thrilling to imagine, 
and it is evident in the descriptions in 
Croly's book, such as that of the opening 
of the Wilmington New Century Club: 

On January 31, 1893, a few days past the 
fourth anniversary, the beautiful "club 
house" was completed. As the love of 
home is deeply rooted in the heart of 
every woman, surely when 400 women's 
hearts were "beating as one" in the antici- 
pation of club-house-keeping, it may just- 
ly be claimed as a day in the annals of 
history. 7 

Spatial descriptions of clubhouses em- 
phasize the main assembly room, since 
lectures, presentation of work, meetings, 

and musical entertainments were always 
at the core of club activities. In the Phila- 
delphia club, as in others, this large as- 
sembly room included the amenity of a 
stage. The large space, which seated 500, 
was softened by subsidiary smaller areas 
—a bay-window alcove, a viewers' gal- 
lery, and a musicians' gallery "with Moor- 
ish fretwork" over the stage — so that 
intimate groupings could coexist with the 
mass assembly of the main space. 

The description of the auditorium of 
the Chicago Woman's Club mentions the 
speaker's platform surrounded by chairs 
placed in a semicircle — a traditional image 
of equality and a form linked with wom- 
anhood. Also described is the presence of 
palms and fresh flowers around the "very 
beautiful" chairs of the president and sec- 
retary on the platform. A similar appreci- 
ation for the sensuous beauty of the club- 
house is evident in many club reports. 

Also important in club spatial pro- 
grams were libraries. In fact, some of the 
early clubs' spaces consisted solely of a 
library and reading room. Collecting 
books and periodicals for the clubwomen's 
use was often the first activity of a club, 
and making a library for the community 
was sometimes an important project. In 
several instances women's clubs con- 
structed public library buildings and then 
used a space within for club headquarters. 
In 1878 the Ladies Library Association of 
Kalamazoo, Michigan, built the first li- 
brary building owned and controlled by 
women in the United States on a lot 
donated by a woman. The club had its 
home within. Likewise, the Helena, Ar- 
kansas, Woman's Library Association 
erected a "commodious brick building" as 
a library to be operated entirely by 

Some women's clubhouses included 
certain functional spaces which were in- 
vented as a response to newly recognized 
women's needs. In several clubhouses 
there was a dressing room with dressing 
"partitions" for each member. The rigid 
dress protocol of the time required change 
of costume between, for example, day- 
time and evening, and this amenity al- 
lowed members to change costume with- 
out returning home. One club report 
mentions folding cots in the dressing 
room, so a woman could even nap. The 
Philadelphia New Century Clubhouse 
was designed as a place where women 
from outside the city could spend the 
night "in a quiet and safe place" after an 
evening in the city for a lecture or a 

The Chicago Woman's Club reported 
it had quiet sitting rooms, always avail- 
able, where women could withdraw for 
small conferences on lounges and easy 
chairs. This club also had dressing rooms 
and offered "simple lunches" so that a 



busy member could stay in town for a 
long day in propriety and comfort. 

The clubhouse of the Central Club of 
Norwalk, Connecticut, included spaces 
which were permanent classrooms. This 
club functioned as an "academy of arts 
and sciences" in the small town, with 
standing courses in parliamentary law, 
physical culture, millinery, French, Ger- 
man, whist, voice culture, social sciences, 
current events, and first aid. 

Practical and progressive topics of 
homemaking such as "The Chemistry of 
Food and Body-Building" or "Homes as 
They Are and Homes as They Should Be" 
appear early in the records of club work, 
as well as specifically women-oriented is- 
sues, such as "The Conditions of Shop- 
Girls, " "Women as Sincere Friends," 
"Physical Culture for Women," "The 
Women of India," and "Laws of State Af- 
fecting Women as Wives, Mothers, and 
Owners of Property." The early existence 
of general reform topics such as "Living 
Conditions in the Poorer Parts of the 
City" indicates the tension from the be- 
ginning between the idea of clubs for 
women's individual improvement and the 
desire to act in the public sphere. Club 
reports link these reformist desires to 
woman's morally excellent character, her 
inherent sense of duty, and the need for 
an outlet for the enormous energy gener- 
ated by women working together. The 
argument for restraint from participation 
in public life seems to have abated quite 
early, since women's clubs participated 
almost from the start in lobbying for 
matrons in women's jails and female doc- 
tors in mental hospitals, for example, and 
for reforms in public education such as 
the inclusion of kindergartens and job- 
training curricula. Certain clubs focused 
on the problems of working-class women. 
An example is the Buffalo, New York, 
Woman's Educational and Industrial 
Union, founded in 1887, which offered 
domestic training courses, employment 
services, education in legal rights and debt 
collection, and physical education, along 
with lectures and entertainments for 
working-class women. In Philadelphia the 
New Century Club's efforts to help work- 
ing-class women led to the formation of 
the independent New Century Guild of 
Working Women. The Guild had its own 
house, where it offered members trade 
classes and "circles" for the practice of job 
skills such as stenography. In addition, 
there were classes to discuss readings and 
history, and a 2000-volume library. The 
Guild published a newspaper, The Work- 
ing Woman's Journal, from its own print- 
shop. Women could bring lunch to the 
Guild's dining room and purchase tea, 
coffee, or soup, and they could rest in 
quiet rooms before returning to their jobs. 
By 1894 the Guild had 1434 members. 

At the same time, Black women 
formed their own clubs, which focused on 
educational and welfare issues in their 
communities. 8 In the 1890s these clubs 
began to form federations, and in 1896 the 
National Association of Colored Women 
(NACW) united three large federations 
and over a hundred local clubs. Often 
formed of middle-class women, the clubs 
were crucial in organizing and funding 
schools, orphanages, day-care centers, 
and old-age homes in communities where 
there were no other social welfare pro- 
grams for Blacks. In addition, self-im- 
provement activities such as lectures and 
literary study groups were carried on, 
just as in contemporary white women's 
clubs. In the 1890s Black women's clubs 
began to focus on the issue of defense of 
Black women against sexual abuse by 
white men, in conjunction with the anti- 
lynching crusade. Later in that decade 
urban clubs of the NACW did social work 
for Black women arriving from the South 
seeking work; they offered recreation, lit- 
erary and cultural events, and courses in 
Black history. In Cleveland a club pro- 


New Century Club, Wilmington, Delaware. 

vided shelters for women who were denied 
admission to the YWCA. In Washington, 
D.C., a club provided job-training for 
kindergarten teachers. The Atlanta Neigh- 
borhood Union was founded by women 
in 1908 to find a way of providing play 
space for Black children; it expanded to 
undertake a range of social service proj- 
ects and to exert political pressure to im- 
prove conditions in Black public schools. 
The Union established medical clinics 
and launched campaigns for home im- 
provement and neighborhood clean-up. 
The approach included both self-help 
and political pressure. The Neighborhood 
Union bought its own house in 1922; it 
became the focal point of the local Black 
community since it housed a health clinic, 
social service staff, mothers' club, Boy 
and Girl Scout troops, homemaking and 
woodworking classes. 

Croly's clubwomen reported that one 
motivation for building clubhouses was 
"to have a greater influence." They saw 
the building itself as a manifestation of 

their strength and ability to shape forces 
in the community. However, the architec- 
tural forms of the buildings do not reflect 
this power-seeking— they remain delicate 
and rather domestic, for the most part. 
The clubwomen's desire for refinement 
and lightness in their buildings is apparent 
both from photographs of the spaces and 
from the language of their descriptions: 
"delicate," "pale," "fine" recur in the club- 
by-club reports. The use of domestic 
imagery may be seen as an attempt to 
blend in with surrounding houses— a kind 
of camouflage to avoid threatening the 
status quo with an aii-woman institution 
that was visibly different, as well. Or per- 
haps woman's internalization of the home 
as her place accounts for the house image. 
Lightness and delicacy of architectural 
form were associated in the late 19th cen- 
tury with a reaction to Victorian style and 
Victorian values (including unchallenged 
patriarchy). In England, where the Queen 
Anne style emerged in this period, and 
also in the United States, the return from 
the Gothic and Classical to the delicacy of 
18th-century forms was a stylistic change 
made popular by people who thought of 
themselves as progressives and aesthetes. 
That is, they believed in the value of cre- 
ating and enjoying art in all forms, and in 
"truth-seeking" or intellectual pursuits for 
their own sake. They advocated the dis- 
semination of art and knowledge through 
all social classes along with more mun- 
dane reforms, as in education and hy- 
giene. 9 As we have seen, the rhetoric and 
programs of the women's club movement 
of this era are very close to these ideals, so 
there may be a cultural link manifesting 
itself in architectural style. 

In contrast to the vocabulary of deli- 
cacy of the women's club buildings stands 
the style of massiveness and domination 
in men's club buildings, such as the palaz- 
zo image of the University Club in New 
York. Ironically, men's clubs, with their 
power image, served as something of a 
retreat for men from power-dealing, while 
domestic and sweet-looking women's 
clubs represented a step out of the home 
and toward the power inherent in num- 
bers of women working together. 

How, then, were women's clubs able 
to finance these rather large-scale building 
projects? Although reports occasionally 
mention the generous gift of a friend of 
the club, both female and male, it was 
mainly the idea of strength in numbers 
that made projects possible. The most 
common method seems to have been for 
the club to start a stock corporation with 
shares for sale for as little as five dollars 
or as much as fifty dollars. Buying a share 
of stock was often the entrance fee to club 
membership, and stock seems to have 
always been held exclusively by club 
members. For the rather comfortable 


middle-class women who, for the most 
part, constituted women's club member- 
ships, the cost of a share of stock must 
have been quite affordable. 10 

Beyond raising capital, women's clubs 
were often quite ingenious in their schemes 
for generating ongoing income to pay 
mortgages and operating expenses of club- 
houses. The New Century Club of Wil- 
mington was designed with a pharmacy 
and a cafe at street level, so that continu- 
ous rental income was expected. The Cen- 
tral Club of Norwalk, Connecticut, rented 
space to the town's Women's Exchange 
twice a week. The Athenaeum in Mil- 
waukee and the New Century Club in 
Philadelphia, among others, were de- 
signed so that the main reception room 
could be opened and reached without 
passing through any quiet clubrooms; 
thus the room could be rented out 
for private receptions, balls, theatricals, 
and entertainments. In the Philadelphia 
club, a wide oak staircase led directly 
from the entrance foyer to the second- 
floor reception room— a large space that 
had been planned in response to a need 
the women saw in the city. It was extreme- 
ly successful, and the demand for its use 
far exceeded its availability. The practical- 
minded clubwomen had two rules for its 
use: the club always had first claim on 
any space at any time, and no alcohol 
could be served— they were quick to add 
that the clubwomen themselves were not 
teetotallers, but that they were taking 
every precaution to limit wear and tear on 
their clubrooms. 

Another professed motivation for 
building a clubhouse was the desire to 
entertain other women's clubs. The en- 
thusiasm for increasingly larger gather- 
ings of groups, as well as for the forma- 
tion of as many clubs as possible, is evi- 
dent in the clubs' reports. This desire to 
proliferate seems to have obfuscated any 
competitive feelings. In fact, the New 
Century Club of Wilmington, after suc- 
cessfully financing and constructing a 
clubhouse with great care, published a 
pamphlet of drawings and information 
for the use of other clubs wanting to build. 
In Norwalk, Connecticut, five women's 
clubs in town pooled their resources to 
build a house. Each club held its meetings 
there and entertained the other clubs on a 
monthly basis. 

In the early 1870s the club movement 
spread, largely through the influence of 
an organization called the Association 
for the Advancement of Women, which 
called its first conference in New York's 
Union Square Theater in 1873. The key- 
note speaker was Julia Ward Howe, whose 
paper was "How Can Women Best Asso- 
ciate Their Efforts for the Amelioration of 
Society?" Four hundred women represent- 
ing 18 states attended the conference, and 
annual conferences were held subsequent- 

ly in various cities, spawning more and 
more women's clubs with every meeting. 
The need to communicate and organize 
among clubs was strong, and federation 
began in 1889 with the foundation of the 
General Federation of Woman's Clubs, 
which was restructured in 1894 through 
the formation of federations of clubs in 
each state. National conventions occurred 
biannually, always in a different city. 

Continuity resulting from the tangible 
identity of a club building as well as from 
commitments to stock companies, corpor- 
ate charters, and tenants, and this allowed 
women's clubs to develop, following and 
forming the issues which were impor- 
tant to women. As more and more women 
joined clubs, as changes in domestic work 
made it possible for women to spend more 
time away from home, and perhaps as 
male society became more adjusted to the 
idea of women's clubs, work became more 
focused on social reform and politics and 
less on literature, art, and geography. It is 
no wonder that out of this rich concentra- 
tion of women's energies grew a deeper 
concern with feminist issues. At the 1904 
biannual convention of the General Fed- 
eration of Woman's Clubs, a discussion of 
suffrage took place for the first time, and 
a woman voter from Colorado was elect- 
ed president. Her keynote address an- 
nounced, "Ladies. . .Dante is dead. . .and 
I think it is time that we dropped the 
study of his Inferno and turned our atten- 
tion to our own." 11 The reaction of the 
male establishment was indicative of the 
potential power of the women's club 
movement. Writing in the May 1905 
Ladies' Home Journal, ex-President Grover 
Cleveland said, "I am persuaded that 
without exaggeration of statement we 
may assume that there are woman's clubs 
whose objects and intents are not only 
harmful, but harmful in a way that direct- 
ly menaces the integrity of our homes and 
the benign disposition and character of 
our wifehood and motherhood. . . .1 be- 
lieve that it should be boldly declared that 
the best and safest club for a woman to 
patronize is her home." 12 

In the post-suffrage era the women's 
club, like the whole feminist movement, 
retreated in exhaustion from the fight for 
women's progress and took on once again 
its social role and its place in community 
reform. The radical aspect of early club 
ideals reappeared in the second wave of 
feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s, 
when once again women founded new 
institutions for themselves. Women's 
Studies departments in universities, as 
well as specialized alternative women's 
schools such as the Woman's School of 
Planning and Architecture, echo the 
classes set up by early women's clubs. The 
Los Angeles-based Woman's Building with 
its standing curriculum of courses for 
women and its commitment to a structure- 

as a symbol and an assurance of continui- 
ty exists in much the same spirit as the 
early clubs. Its financial struggle for sur- 
vival and the dearth of similar women's 
buildings attest to late 20th-century reali- 
ties of real estate and construction costs, 
as well as the effects of a redistribution of 
wealth and a more egalitarian member- 
ship. Today it is perhaps the communica- 
tions network, rather than the clubhouse 
of a century ago, which women must use 
to create ongoing connections for mutual 
support, self-education, and political 

1. Sherna Gluck, Ed., From Parlor to Pris- 
on: Five American Suffragists Talk 
about Their Lives (New York: Vintage 
Books, 1976), p. 12. 

2. Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle: 
The Women's Rights Movement in the 
United States (Cambridge: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1959), p. 41. 

3. Jennie Cunningham Croly (Jennie June), 
The History of the Woman's Club Move- 
ment in America (New York: Allen, 
1898). Published under the authority of 
the Council of the General Federation of 
Woman's Clubs of America. All infor- 
mation in this paper not otherwise at- 
tributed is drawn from this source. 

4. Croly, p. 18. 

5. Ibid., p. 27. 

6. Sarah Holmes Boutelle, "Julia Morgan 
and Her Clients," This Issue, p. 91. 

7. Croly, p. 333. 

8. Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its 
Past: Placing Women in History (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 
pp. 83-93. All information on Black 
women's clubs is taken from this source. 

9. Mark Girouard, Sweetness and Light: 
The "Queen Anne" Movement, 1860- 
1900 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977). 

10. For example, when the Woman's Club of 
Wisconsin in Milwaukee decided to 
build its own house, to be called the 
Athenaeum, the members formed a cor- 
poration, stating "the capital stock of 
said corporation shall be $25,000, di- 
vided into one thousand shares of twen : 
ty-five dollars each" (Croly, p. 1159). 

11. Gluck, p. 13. 

12. Ibid., p. 10. 

Cynthia Rock is an architect practicing m 
New York. 




Sara Holmes Boutelle 

I lients are the catalysts of architec- 
ture; they enable the architect's 
thoughts on paper to exist in three 
' dimensions, and they may often 
play a creative role in the design process. 
Yet the crucial relationship between de- 
signer and client and the manner in which 
an architect receives a commission have 
largely been kept in the wings of architec- 
tural history. In the case of women archi- 
tects and designers this relationship is of 
particular complexity. For women, entree 
into traditional centers of power and in- 
fluence, in an economic and political sense 
—the milieus that afford the contacts 
which develop clients— is largely closed. 
An examination of the clients of Julia 
Morgan, the most prolific independent 
woman architect in American architectur- 
al history, provides an understanding of 
how a woman functioned as a profession- 
al within the restrictions inherent in being 
a woman before World War II. Approxi- 
mately half of Morgan's clients were 
women or institutions for women. She 
determinedly avoided publicity and self- 
promotion. Most of her important clients 
developed not as a result of accounts of 
her work in popular and professional jour- 
nals but from social connections and rec- 
ommendations from former clients and a 
network of both women of wealth and 
women professionals of more modest 
economic means. 

In 1902, after completing a first degree 
at Berkeley in engineering, Julia Morgan 
completed a course in the section of archi- 
tecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 
Paris. She was the first woman in the 
school's history to be accepted for this 
course. For 40 years she headed her own 
architectural firm in San Francisco, and 
when she died at age 85 in 1957 she had 
designed some 700 buildings. She de- 
signed within an eclectic vocabulary, 
drawing on both the academic Beaux-Arts 
and traditional California vernacular ar- 
chitecture for inspiration. She practiced in 
this mode with close attention to I ie de- 
sires of her clients and to sound construc- 
tion. Many of her commissions were the 
result of earlier ones for the same clients. 
From the beginning of her career, Julia 
Morgan was encouraged by women. Mor- 
gan's very first client, while she was still 
in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, was 
Mrs. Harriet Fearing, an expatriate from 





Julia Morgan. 

New York and Newport. Fearing asked 
Morgan to add a grand salon to her 17th- 
century house in Fontainebleau, where she 
could present musicales and exhibitions 
by her young protegees in the arts. The 
room was built in 1902 and was used as it 
had been intended until at least the middle 
of World War I, when Mrs. Fearing had to 
return temporarily to Newport. The speci- 
fications, including bills from masons, 
chimney-builders, locksmiths, and orna- 
mental plasterers— all addressed to "Mile. 
Morgan, Architecte"— were saved with 
her Beaux-Arts drawings and are in the 
Documents Collection at Berkeley. 

Shortly after her return to California 
Morgan managed to set up her own office 
in San Francisco. Her first major building 
project was the Mills College Campanil of 
1903-1904, the first college bell tower in 
the West. Susan Mills, the president (and 
co-founder) of this college for women, 
found a benefactor for the project in Frank 
Smith, the husband of one of her trustees. 
Undoubtedly Mrs. Mills liked the idea of 
an Oakland woman being the architect in 
charge of the project, but Mr. Smith 
listened to the complaints of the contract- 
or, Bernard Ransome, who did not believe 
any young lady could understand rein- 

forced concrete. Yet the tower withstood 
the earthquake of 1906. After quite a con- 
troversy, which almost makes it seem 
that Smith rather than Mills was the 
client, the completed tower was dedi- 
cated, with Ransome's name ahead of 
Morgan's in the program. (The plaque on 
the tower said: "Erected by Mr. and Mrs. 
Frank Smith.") The Mills commission 
brought others. Susan Mills commissioned 
Morgan to do the library, the gymnasium, 
the social hall, and the infirmary at the 
college, while Mr. Smith hired her to 
build a large "cottage" as a refuge for 
young women in whom his wife took a 
charitable interest. 

Among Morgan's significant clients, 
Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the 
earliest. The connection with Mrs. Hearst 
was vital to Morgan's career. It was 
through Mrs. Hearst that Morgan became 
the "house" architect for western YWCAs. 
Phoebe Hearst's example led to the com- 
misson for San Simeon, the William 
Randolph Hearst estate, which in turn led 
to an association with Marion Davies, the 
presiding hostess at San Simeon, who 
later commissioned important works from 

"El Campanil," Mills College, Oakland, 

© 1981 Sara Holmes Boutelle 


Morgan's involvement with Mrs. 
Hearst began in her student days at the 
Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Mrs. Hearst pro- 
vided stipends for all California students 
at the Ecole. In Paris Morgan had an 
apartment in the same house as Bernard 
Maybeck, who designed Hearst Hall for 
the University of California. This was first 
used as a reception pavilion for Mrs. 
Hearst's Berkeley house and later moved 
to the university. Morgan worked on 
some of the drawings for Hearst Hall. In 
1910 Mrs. Hearst, or "the Empress" as she 
was called in certain circles in San Fran- 
cisco, commissioned Morgan to enlarge 
and embellish her home "The Hacienda" 
in Pleasanton. The house became a social 
center for entertaining not just the family 
and personal friends, but beneficiaries of 
the various good works promoted by 
Mrs. Hearst. This included especially the 
women students of Berkeley and workers 
in the YWCA movement all over the 
West. The Hearst connection is obviously 
the key to understanding how Julia Mor- 
gan obtained her most important institu- 
tional client, the YWCA. 

The Pacific Coast Field Committee of 
the National Y had conferred annually 
since 1900 at the old Hotel Capitola near 
the beach at Santa Cruz. When the hotel 
was destroyed by fire in 1912, Phoebe 
Hearst invited the conference to "The 
Hacienda," where she had a tent city 

erected on the grounds, with facilities for 
300 (including 300 pairs of rubbers and 
300 umbrellas when a rainstorm came 
up). The camp equipment became the 
basic furniture for the conference grounds, 
established the next year in Pacific Grove. 
Here a tract of 30 acres along the ocean 
was given to the YWCA by the Pacific Im- 
provement Company, with the stipula- 
tion that improvements worth $30,000 be 
made within 10 years. This became Asilo- 
mar (refuge by the sea). Mrs. Hearst pro- 
vided funds for the first Assembly Hall, 
now the Hearst Administration Building. 
The architect to plan and supervise the 
whole enterprise (built throughout the 
'20s) was Julia Morgan. 

Between 1913 and 1915, she was also 
engaged in constructing large urban 
YWCAs in Oakland and San Jose, only 
the first of many Ys Morgan would de- 
sign. Commissions for those two struc- 
tures may have come at least in part from 
the influence of Morgan's sorority sister 
Grace Fisher, who was a YWCA board 
member. Julia Morgan wrote to Phoebe 
Hearst in 1919, saying how much she ap- 
preciated what had grown out of the 
"General Plan" of Asilomar— the relation- 
ship with the New York National YWCA 
Board, and in fact the offer to work there 
permanently to oversee building plans 
nationally (which she did not undertake). 
Morgan continues: "And so through it all 

is the thread of your kindness since those 
Paris days when you were so beautifully 
kind to a most painfully shy and home- 
sick girl." 

The YWCA work naturally brought 
other institutional and private commis- 
sions from those associated with the Y. 
Hettie Belle Marcus, who was a board 
member of the YWCA when Morgan was 
building the high-rise YWCA residence in 
San Francisco in 1932, retained her to 
build a penthouse atop her own residence 
on Lombard Street in 1935. Elsa Schilling, 
also a member of the residence board, had 
Morgan build a Lake Tahoe house for her 
in 1939, which remains even today, a 
showplace. Miss Schilling was one of the 
founders of a scholarship in the architec- 
ture school in Morgan's name when she 

Morgan's work at Mills College also 
brought her new and important commis- 
sions. Dr. Mariana Bertola had been the 
college physician at Mills when Morgan 
was engaged in building there. Immedi- 
ately after the earthquake, when Dr. 
Bertola's house and office were destroyed 
by fire, she commissioned a new set of 
two buildings, one for offices and one for 
her residence on Jackson Street in San 
Francisco. These still stand, converted to 
apartments. Dr. Bertola's role as a client 
became more significant as she herself 
took on expanding leadership in the city. 

Phoebe Hearst Administration Building, Asilomar, Pacific Grove, Cal., 1913. Photo credit: James H. Edelen. 


r. J« ±'-:.''&}&£-i'--:' : - *^*- ' u ~ ; - ; 

>:^^&^»a -— • «■ 




Susan Mills, Julia Morgan's first client. 

As President of the Federation of Woman's 
Clubs when they were engaged in their 
"Save-the-Redwoods" campaign, she saw 
to it that Morgan built the memorial to 
the efforts of the clubs at Humboldt Park. 
Then, as the chief mover in the Native 
Daughters of the Golden West, she ar- 
ranged for Morgan to be the architect for 
the new state headquarters and residence 
on Baker Street in San Francisco. 

The late 19th and early 20th century 
witnessed the growth of important wom- 
en's institutions such as clubs and colleges. 
Morgan was often chosen as the designer 
for California women's clubs. Morgan de- 
signed a number of women's clubs, al- 
though the state federation does not seem 
to have served as a client, since each local 
group was well under way and usually in 
a clubhouse before affiliation with the 
federation took place. At any rate, the 
Foothill Club in Saratoga, organized in 
1907, chose a building committee which 
asked Morgan for plans in 1914. The local 
newspaper reported that the architect sub- 
mitted four possible designs, and in 1915 
brought in the completed building unani- 
mously chosen by their committee, for the 
sum of $4500. This clubhouse was insured 
for $150,000 in the 70s. The chairman of 
the building committee of the Minerva 
Club in Santa Maria had lived in Berkeley, 
where she had admired Morgan's resi- 
dences and churches; Morgan was chosen 
as the architect for the new building. In 
Sausalito in 1918 the Women's Club met 
with some skepticism from fathers and 
brothers who heard of their choice of a 
woman architect. One concerned husband 
left a trust fund for repairs for this club, 
which he believed would inevitably fall 
apart. They were never able to touch that 
fund, so solid was the building, until a 
friendly lawyer made a case for refurbish- 
ing it for the nation's Bicentennial to qual- 
ify for the repair fund! 

Morgan's own membership in the 
Century Club of San Francisco afforded 
her still another client. The club owned a 
building, but with growing membership, 
their headquarters seemed inadequate. 
They called on their own member, Julia 
Morgan, to. enlarge and remodel it, and 
her work stands as a source of pride to the 
group. The Monday Club in San Luis 
Obispo and the Friday Morning Club in 
Los Angeles testify to many a busy week 
for this architect. 

As for Berkeley, here would naturally 
assemble a sizable force of vigorous, edu- 
cated women who wanted a club building 
which would rival anything in the city or 
in the state. This they secured in the 
Berkeley Women's City Club (now co- 
educational), a castlelike six-story struc- 
ture designed around two courts, with a 
large daylighted swimming pool and flex- 
ible arrangements of dining rooms, draw- 
ing rooms, ballroom-auditorium, several 
kitchens, even a flower-arranging room. 
Magnificent ceilings, fireplaces, the grand 
staircase, all bespeak an elegance and 
sophistication for urban users. Every 
detail, including the lighting fixtures, the 
dishes, the linen, was of Morgan's design, 
and she also chose the furnishings. 

Institutions for the education of wom- 
en increased rapidly during the first part 
of the 20th century. The original "Theta" 
building (1908), the "Zeta" sorority (1910), 
and the Women's Social Hall, Girton 
(1911), all at the University of California, 
were commissions that surely came be- 
cause Morgan was an alumna. Private 
secondary schools she designed include 
the Barnard School in Berkeley, Ransom 
and Bridges in Piedmont, the Burke and 
Hamlin Schools in San Francisco. All 
were founded by women, to provide an 
education of the highest quality for girls. 
Many of her domestic commissions 
also came from women. Mrs. Elsie Drex- 
ler, who was listed as "Capitalist" in the 
San Francisco Directory, commissioned a 
redwood residence with pergolas, in 
Woodside; it is still one of the great 
houses of the Peninsula area. Mrs. Liver- 
more of Livermore had Morgan build her 
a small house in the country and another 
on Russian Hill in San Francisco, behind 
the Willis Polk house at the crest. In 1916, 
when materials were scarce, the architect 
used windows salvaged from the Panama- 
Pacific Exposition, and the house for Mrs. 
Livermore, on three levels with a foot- 
bridge to the path uphill, is almost aus- 
tere, although the extravagant views of 
city and bay make a strong appeal to the 
senses. Mrs. Starr, whose family had two 
Morgan houses in Piedmont, commis- 
sioned one in the hills above Fremont. 
Mrs. Brayton of Oakland had Morgan 
design a house suitable for entertaining on 
a large scale (her son recalls lavish masked 
balls with butlers pouring champagne for 





-■»> .' 

Interior courtyard, Berkeley City Women's 
Club, 1929-30. 

the dancers while the children watched 
from a balcony). She then commissioned 
another house in Piedmont with a theatre 
upstairs, and a "cottage" at Pebble Beach, 
designed around a Delia Robbia plaque 
brought back from a European trip. Clara 
Huntington Perkins assisted Morgan with 
the designs for the tiles for her hilltop 
aerie in Los Gatos. Mrs. David Gamble 
was the head of the building committee 
for the Pasadena YWCA. Mrs. Cecil B. 
deMille was head of the building commit- 
tee for the Hollywood Studio Club, a tem- 
porary residence and club for young 
women aspiring to become part of the 
movie industry. 

At the same time Julia Morgan was 
designing simple, compact houses of red- 
wood for teachers and doctors who did 
not have a lot of money. Drs. Elsa Mitch- 
ell and Clara Williams had a small red- 
wood house built on a steep hillside fall- 
ing away to the bay in Berkeley. The office 
and garage were in front at the upper 
level, while the living space was oriented 
to the rear, where the view of the bay is 
still awe-inspiring. Dr. Ruth Huffman of 
Petaluma had an earlier house remodeled 
to serve as both residence and lying-in 
hospital. Dr. Emma Wightman Pope, a 
college friend of Morgan's, had her build 
a retirement cottage on the hill overlook- 
ing the Mission at Carmel. Jessica Peixot- 
to, a classmate at the University of Cal- 
ifornia in 1894 and the first woman to 
gain a Ph.D. from Berkeley as well as the 
first woman professor there, commis- 
sioned a modest house near the campus. 
Miss Mollie Conners, an Oakland jour- 
nalist, also turned to Morgan for a simple 
house in Piedmont, as did Annie Caroline 
Edmonds, a high school teacher of mathe- 
matics (one of five women in Berke- 
ley's class of 1882). She wanted a larger 
income-producing house in Berkeley. The 
latter redwood structure, finished in 1904, 



shows a sophisticated handling of space 
and details of craftsmanship which would 
continue to characterize the work of this 

No account of Morgan clients would 
be complete without mention of some of 
the families who called on her more than 
once for domestic and commercial build- 
ings. Mrs. Glide of Sacramento commis- 
sioned her friend to build the Public Mar- 
ket, presently offices for the Secretary of 
State, and a fine house on the outskirts of 
her city. Then, as each Glide daughter 
married and settled in Berkeley, each had 
a Morgan house in a different style, one 
Tudor, one Georgian, and the third a 
handsome California original which now 
belongs to the university. Julia Morgan 
also built huge hay barns at Clarksburg, 
near Sacramento, for the Glide family. 
Mrs. Glide once asked Morgan to design a 
Methodist Church for a Glide memorial in 
San Francisco, but when she saw the 

plans, she said it would be too expensive 
(a notoriously frugal lady, Mrs. Glide) 
and suggested that the entrance should be 
changed to economize. Morgan said that 
if she wanted it that way she should find 
another architect. She did. 

Social connections and past clients as 
the key to commissions is not a phenom- 
enon particular to women. What is un- 
usual is that it is unlikely that any male 
would have a roster of clients that was 50 
percent institutions for women or women 
commissioning domestic buildings. This is 
as revealing about women architects and 
Morgan as it is about women themselves. 
These women's institutions and the wom- 
en clients had a consciousness about their 
womanhood and about the support of 
other women that led them to patronize a 
woman when a qualified woman was 
available. It was in large part because of 
this that Morgan was able to execute so 
many buildings. 

Julia Morgan is not well known even 
among those interested in architecture. 
There are many reasons for this. She 
shunned publicity, her work was designed 
in an eclectic mode which 20th-century 
historians are just beginning to appreci- 
ate, and lastly it is possible that, as much 
of her work was done for women, it may 
have been ignored as out of the main- 

Sara Holmes Boutelle, an architectural his- 
torian, founded the Julia Morgan Associa- 
tion. Her biography on Morgan is scheduled 
for publication in the new Encyclopedia of 
American Architects. 

Study for a country house (?), ca. 1900. 



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made by women. We are not committed to any particular style or aesthetic, nor to 
the competitive mentality that pervades the art world. Our view of feminism is one 
of process and change, and we feel that in the process of this dialogue we can foster a 
change in the meaning of art. 

HERESIES COLLECTIVE: Ida Applebroog, Lyn Blumenthal, Cynthia Carr, Sue 
Heinemann, Elizabeth Hess, Arlene Ladden, Lucy R. Lippard, Melissa Meyer, Carrie 
Rickey, Elizabeth Sacre, Elke Solomon 

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS: Patsy Beckert, Joan Braderman, Mary Beth Edelson, Janet 
Froelich, Harmony Hammond, Joyce Kozloff, Marty Pottenger, Miriam Schapiro, Amy 
Sillman, Pat Steir, May Stevens, Joan Snyder, Michelle Stuart, Susana Torre, Elizabeth 
Weatherford, Sally Webster, Nina Yankowitz 

STAFF: Sandy De Sando (Circulation Manager), Cynthia Carr, Harmony Hammond, 
and Sue Heinemann (Production Coordinators), Alesia Kunz (Administrative Coordi- 

#12 SEXUALITY. The complexity of female desire— its expression, GUIDELINES FOR CONTRIBUTORS. Each issue of HERESIES 
suppres S1 on, and repression. Tracing the contours of our own eroti- has a specific theme and all material submitted should relate to that 
cism arousal, attraction, passion, love, and pain. How female theme. We welcome outlines and proposals for articles and visual 
sexuahty .s constructed consciously and unconsciously; how it work. Manuscripts (one to five thousand words) should be type- 
operates under patriarchal rules; how it rebels. Insiders' views on written, double-spaced, and submitted in duplicate. Visual material 
s/ m, child love, man love, woman love. Can feminism accommo- should be submitted in the form of a slide, xerox, or photograph, 
date variation ,n sexual style and practice? What are the lessons We will not be responsible for original art work. AH manuscripts 
from the flesh; what are the questions for the flesh? and visual materia , must be accompanied by a stamped , S1 f lf . 

lllFFMlwicMiMnFrnmrv d i j .• ■ , , addressed envelope. We do not publish reviews or monographs on 

#13 FEMINISM AND ECOLOGY. Persona and political analyses contemporary women. We do not commission articles and cannot 

of the relationship between ecological and feminist issues: Politics guarantee acceptance of submitted material. HERESIES pays a 

(consumer awareness population control, pollution, and environ- small fee for materia , that is published in each issue . 
mental hazards), Art (art that respects and affects the environment), 

Science (redefining the uses of science, ethics, and experimenta- HERESIES wishes to thank the following people for much-needed con- 
ion), Life Styles (, how urban and rural women view the tributions: D. D. Beiderwell, S. Hammerschlay Bernheim, Debra Block, 
land, responsible fashion, appropriate technology, the counter- Patric ia Brunelle, Jane Davis, Claudia Fantino, Ward Fleissner, Krystin 
culture as reactionary and conservation as radical). Grenson , KathIeen H all, Ellen Lanyon, Kathryn Markel, and Abigail 


actions or projects are you working on? This issue will collect HERESIES receives financial support from the New York State Council 
papers, conversations, posters, broadsides, blueprints, magazine on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Women's Fund- 
pieces — anything verbal or visual that tells us specifically what you Joint Foundation Support, 
are planning and why, what circumstances led you to these con- 
cerns. We are soliciting material from progressive political and cul- HERESIES is indexed by the Alternative Press Centre, Box 7229, Balti- 
tural groups all over the world. Please submit an outline, proposal, more, Md. 21218. It is a member of COSMEP (Committee of Small 
or synopsis by April 30. Magazine Editors and Publishers), Box 703, San Francisco, Cal. 94101.